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Baillargeon Back On Track

Published: May 7, 2009 11:41 am ET

Last Comment: May 7, 2009 3:21 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

On March 2, racing patrons at Woodbine Racetrack witnessed one of the more serious harness racing accidents in recent memory.

When Warp Speed, a three-year-old pacer trained by Ben Wallace, grabbed a front shoe and went down on the track, he not only catapulted driver Mario Baillargeon out of the sulky, but caused a chain reaction wreck involving seven other horses. Though miraculously, no horses were seriously injured (other than some severe lacerations for Warp Speed), the same could not be said for the drivers.

Three suffered major damage - Roger Mayotte, Robert Shepherd, and 51-year-old Baillargeon, who was transported to Milton Hospital with a shattered right tibia.

Fitted with a hip-to-ankle cast and in considerable discomfort, 'Super Mario' was forced to cool his heels on the sidelines through the months of March and April - an especially frustrating circumstance considering the phenomenal start he'd had to this season, with 44 wins in the first two months of racing.

But time heals all wounds, and by April 22, the cast was gone and Baillargeon was plunging into the pool for a daily swim, and into physiotherapy thrice weekly to help resolve the lingering stiffness and scar tissue in his leg.

Predictably, he was also making his way to his brother Benoit's stable, and to the shedrow of Ben Wallace, to get back in the bike and jog some horses.

On the morning of Monday, May 4, Mario steered four horses in qualifying races at Mohawk. Then he followed that up with six drives on Mohawk's Monday night race card, driving three-year-old pacing filly, Ashtreos, to victory in the $20,000 second leg of the Ontario Sired Spring Series, and grabbing second in the $50,000 Open Trot with Sakic Seelster.

In an impressive return to form, Baillargeon delivered cheques in all but one of his starts on Monday night.

"I was really happy with (Monday) night," Baillargeon said. "I only missed one cheque, and I was no sorer this morning than I was yesterday, so that's good. It was really sweet being back.

"Actually it was my left leg which was a bit sore, probably from putting more weight on it and sitting a little funny in the bike. But being back in the bike is no problem. It's walking that is the problem."

Baillargeon is still relying on a cane to help him get "from horse to horse", he says, but expects his gait to improve with more therapy and strengthening. "Getting back to racing is the best therapy for me," he said. "I'm sick of looking at the TV."

Experience has taught him that a gradual return to form pays dividends in the end. "I'm not crazy about driving 10 or 11 (a night) for the next few weeks. Four or five will suit me just fine. I'm going to pace myself a bit."

With his feet once again in the stirrups and his hands on the lines, Baillargeon can't help but reflect on the severity of the accident and be grateful that he has had a chance to return to action. "The nightmare's over, I think. I just hope something like that never happens again."

And he reports that he's not the only one on the mend. Warp Speed, the colt who was badly cut up by the remnants of his bike as he galloped back to the Woodbine paddock that March night, has been recovering at his owner's farm near Ottawa.

He is now feeling so good that he will return to Wallace's shedrow at Classy Lane Training Centre near Campbellville next week and begin swimming, in preparation for logging some jogging miles in June. "He's an awfully nice horse, and it's great to hear he's coming back and will race again," said Baillargeon.

That's what many racing fans are saying about Super Mario's return.

May 7, 2009 - 3:21 pmGlad to hear you recovered

Glad to hear you recovered well and you're enjoying be back racing.
take care of yourself.
It was, also, nice to hear that the horse Warp Speed is healing.

Marie Moura

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