Stephane Bouchard lucky not to be paralyzed or worse

But it will be a long road to recovery for the driver after suffering a broken C1 vertebra in a scary accident at Saratoga last week.

by Dave Briggs

Despite being catapulted out of the race bike, landing on his head and breaking the C1 vertebra in his neck, driver Stephane Bouchard considers himself lucky. Doctors said he easily could have been killed or paralyzed in a scary accident June 22 at Saratoga Casino Hotel that also left driver Dan Daley with serious injuries (full story here).

“It was a bad accident. I landed on my head. That’s the one thing you don’t really control — the landing. I broke the C1 (vertebra),” Bouchard said Saturday. “They put in a plate with a screw to fuse C1 and C2.

“I’ve had a few accidents. Sometimes you break things and you know you’re going to recover from it and you know it’s going to be four, five, six weeks and then you’re back, but this one… I was lucky in my bad luck. It could’ve been the rest of my life.”

Injuries to the C1 and C2 vertebra are considered to be the most severe of all. The two vertebra support the head and allow the head to rotate.

The accident happened in the fourth race on June 22 at Saratoga when Daley’s horse Mister Miami fell to the track.

“My colt pulled a shoe behind the gate right at the top of the stretch. He straightened up. Then in the first turn, I thought, ‘He’s a little peggy on it,’” Daley told HRU Friday. “I had warmed him up well and he paced the turns super. He’s a pretty nice colt. But then he was a little gimpy in the first turn and I straightened him up down the backside. About the second step into the second turn, I don’t know if he stepped on something or he had some nails in his foot or something from when he pulled the shoe, but he hit the second turn and he kind of snapped up and he hung in his hopple and he was down right then. He just went flop. There was no time to save him (from falling).

“Another horse slammed into my left side. He just kind of bounced off me. He got around me. I don’t know how, but he did. Stephane (Bouchard) got stuck there and he got launched. He was flying through the air.”

Bouchard’s horse Sporty Big Boy was euthanized after the accident. Mister Miami is recovering from injuries. Bouchard said he couldn’t avoid the accident. “(Daley’s) horse dropped so quickly in front of me. I couldn’t avoid the wheel and I ran over him and turned up in the air,” he said.

It’s too early for doctors to know how long Bouchard will be out of action.

“I’ve got to wear my brace for eight to 12 weeks and then, after that, there’s therapy,” Bouchard said. “It’s going to be a long recovery, put it that way. It’s pretty bad.”

Bouchard, 50, of Malta, NY, has won 8,589 races and collected purse earnings exceeding $75 million.

“I’ve got three horses here and my wife is working with the horses right now. I was training horses with my wife. I’ve cut down a few, but I have three here now,” Bouchard said. “Further down the road, I don’t know what’s going to happen. As of right now, I have to take it a day at a time. I can’t wait to start to get back to it, but I have to face the reality sooner or later and we’ll see what happens in a few months.

“I’ve got great support from my family here — my brother, my wife.”