Fortunately, the amount of on-track accidents at Saratoga Casino Hotel has been significantly decreased over the course of the last decade or even two. Many in the sport have referenced sounder, more fit horses and the high quality of safe and skilled drivers as primary reasons for the reduction of incidents in racing. Sadly, on Wednesday May 12th, we did experience a bad accident in a race whose ramifications continue to be felt.
Jay Randall has been a fixture in the sulky for almost forty years and has spent the majority of that time at Saratoga. On the May 12th matinee, Randall was moving third over as the field headed toward the three-quarter pole when a horse two in front of him fell to the track and created a chain reaction. Five horses and drivers went down in a race that would be declared a “no contest.” While, fortunately, the horses all emerged without serious injury that was not the case for all of the drivers. Jay Randall was down on the track for about a half hour being tended to by medical personnel after sustaining what wound up being several significant injuries. The wreck was very tough to watch so to be a part of it is almost unimaginable. Though if you ask Randall about it, as I did, he doesn’t remember a thing about it.
The veteran reinsman has been a part of his share of spills over the course of his lengthy career in the sulky. Despite that, he never worries when he heads out onto the track. After all, it’s hard to do your job if you’re constantly thinking about the obvious risk involved in horse racing. “I think the reduced amount of incidents on the track both here at Saratoga and really industry wide make it easy to kind of forget about the risk,” Randall told me. “Obviously, you know what you’re getting into every time you head out onto the track but the horses and drivers are so good these days that I really don’t think ever think about it. It’s hard to.” Randall’s injuries were so significant that he was immediately ambulanced to Albany Medical Center and wound up being admitted into their ICU. “I don’t remember a thing. My wife came into the ICU and I asked her why I was here and what happened,” Jay explained. “The concussion probably dictated what my memory was which was none. I watched the replay and it was like watching a race I’d never seen before. First memory is when I had come to at the hospital.” Scary, but not very surprising for those of us that watched the incident unfold.
Randall suffered eleven broken ribs in the accident, including nine on his left side alone. For anyone who has broken a rib, you know how painful it is. To break nearly a dozen is tough to conceptualize. And it certainly didn’t end there for Jay who suffered a punctured lung, a concussion and a small brain bleed. He was kept in the ICU for a few days with chest tubes in as doctors feared that pneumonia could be occur. He also has experienced some double vision likely as a result of the concussion. “I had surgery five days later to put plates in my ribs. It wound up being about a six hour surgery since the ribs were so badly shattered and misplaced,” Jay recalled. The surgery though was a success and finally provided some relief from the awful pain of the ribs pre-surgery. “Pre-operation, the pain was hard to deal with, even with the help of medication. During surgery, everything got put together as well as it could be and from that point on, the pain level began to subside.”
After twelve days in the hospital, Jay returned home to the care of his wife Dawn. “I used a walker for a while once I got home since my balance was off and my strength level was so low. I had no energy after being laid up in the hospital for so long. It was a fight mentally too because I felt like I had aged 30 years in two weeks!” Jay explained. “My wife has been AMAZING throughout this whole thing. I really can’t express enough how incredible she has been. It couldn’t have been easy getting the phone call that your husband is being rushed to Albany Med but from the moment she got there, she was just awesome. She helped with everything from talking to the doctors to giving family and friends information on what was going on. She gave updates on Facebook as to my well-being as well as we were receiving so many inquiries from people. She went back and forth to Albany Med twice a day due to the restricted visiting hours. She helped me mentally cope with things as well and now that I’ve been home for a couple weeks, she continues to be the best caregiver anyone could ever hope for.” When I told Jay that I had had dozens and dozens of people reaching out to me asking for updates on his situation, he explained the outpouring of support has really been unbelievable. “It’s humbling,” Randall told me. “We’ve had hundreds of people reach out and express well wishes. Some from the business have suggested that I take my time and get healthy and not to rush back.” “I’ve heard from several trainers who have said rest up and get back to normal and the horses will be here for you when you return.” “The amount of support has really been overwhelming. It’s pretty emotional actually. Very humbling,” Jay admitted.
Just what does the future hold for Randall? Well the 60 year old is very hopeful to return to the sulky in the next couple of months. “I’ve been home from the hospital for a few weeks and ever since, my checkups have gone really well,” Randall explained. “I am healing a lot faster than expected but it’s still a long, long road. I’m just starting to feel some semblance of normalcy. I’m able to shower on my own and do some independent things finally. Starting to get some strength back. My one arm is doing great but the other I’m still struggling with. The side where I broke the nine ribs.” “In a perfect world, I’d be back in early August but we’ll have to see. I’ve had injuries before, a broken wrist, a broken leg but this one is different. I’ve never dealt with anything like this before.” When I asked Jay what occupies his time now that he has no horses to drive, or to train for that matter. “I watch a lot of tv. I watch the races when we’re racing. Watch baseball. It’s just tough. I went from going full bore, racing five days a week (he was driving a few days a week at Plainridge in Massachusetts) and now nothing. It’s tough but we’re getting there. Have to heal up,” Randall said. Personally, I was thrilled to be able to speak with Jay and discuss his future return to the track after the frankly horrific scene we witnessed on May 12. It has been a tough month to say the least for Jay Randall and the next couple won’t be easy either. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the likeable veteran driver who we all wish the best for and hope to see on the track perhaps later this summer. In my almost twenty years at the track, I have never been asked about anything or anyone more than I have been about Randall and his health and recovery in recent weeks so I felt it important to give an update to everyone, an update that comes straight from the horse’s mouth. Well, the driver anyway! Heal up Jay and we’ll see you soon. Everyone is rooting for you!
Live racing takes place every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the month of June with first post set for 12 Noon each day. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!