Alex Cintron: “World revolves around doctors”
by Doug McCoy
Alex Cintron was in the midst of his best season this year when he went to the gate for the third race at Laurel Park on November 19. He had already won 132 races on the season, was among the leaders for the Laurel fall meeting at that point, and his mounts had early earned more than $4.1 million in purses. After having his career sidetracked several times by injuries suffered in spills, Cintron finally looked poised to solidify his position as one of the top riders on the East Coast.
Then, as it has done more than once in Cintron’s career, fate stepped in and turned the rider’s world upset down. Shortly after the start of that third race, Cintron’s mount, Leather Goods, went down going into the first turn of a route race, throwing Cintron to the ground heavily. Once again the rider found himself on the ground, with emergency medical personnel hovering about. He was transported to a nearby hospital, where he was found to have suffered injuries to his facial area, shoulder blade and knee.
Now, a month later, Cintron finds himself playing the waiting game – and at a career crossroads.
The injuries to the facial area had added significance because Cintron already had plates and other surgical appliances in that area that were put into place to repair injuries the rider suffered in a serious spill in the fall of 2014. That spill, which occurred the day before the De Francis Dash, was not only damaging to Cintron from the physical standpoint. On De Francis Dash day, three horses he’d been named on but could not ride scored in stakes company, including Zee Bros in the $350,000 Dash. Those three wins would have earned the rider $33,000.
So now, once again, Cintron’s future is in the hands of others, namely his doctors. The physical toll of the series of spills the rider has suffered can’t be measured, and the mental strain that comes with traumatic injury and the subsequent efforts to recover from those injuries is considerable and ongoing. Cintron, 31, is in a serious, somber mood these days.
“Right now I’m just waiting for the swelling to completely go down in my face,” the jockey reported. “My doctors tell me there’s no way for them to go in and do anything until that happens. They tell me there was some damage and shifting of the plates that were in place from the spill in 2014 and that I also had more damage around the orbital bone area. At this point in time, they tell me they can’t give me any clear plan for repairing the area until such time as the swelling goes down completely and they can more closely examine the area.”
That’s the worst of it – but not all of it.
“I also have a fracture of the scapula (shoulder blade) and some damage to one knee,” Cintron said. “I have to see another doctor next week about those injuries. It seems like my world these days revolves around doctor’s visits.”
Cintron was also candid about the mental toll these latest injuries are taking,
“I’m not going to deny it, it’s been a tough period for me,” the rider admitted, “I’ve having a very hard time sleeping because the affected area around my eyes affects my ability to blink. When you’re in deep sleep you don’t know it but your eyes blink and the injuries have affected that function. It’s been a tough time for sure.”
There had been rumors that Cintron was seriously contemplating retirement rather than the possible consequences that might come from a future accident. Those, Cintron said, are premature.
“There have been times since the accident when I’ve wondered if I wanted to go on, but I’ve talked with my wife and family and they have encouraged me to try and be patient until I can get the full picture and prognosis from my doctors,” he explained. “If, after they’ve completed examining the damage and they tell me there’s significant danger for me to continue riding, then I’ll have to make some hard decisions. If they give me clearance to ride again, I’ve still got the hunger and the drive. We were having our best year ever when I got hurt so I know I can compete and succeed. I’m just going to wait and see what the doctors say and take it from there.”