Five drivers were taken to Freehold, NJ, area hospitals for evaluation after the starting gate car collided with the horses in the first turn of the fifth race at Freehold Raceway on Friday, Jan. 10. The starting car had released the field and was on the outer portion of the track when it appeared to slide and spin into the oncoming horses.
Hall of Fame driver Cat Manzi, 63, from Freehold, NJ, was taken to Jersey Shore Medical Center. According to his wife, Ellen, Manzi suffered a punctured lung and multiple rib fractures. He was driving Big Sky Angelina.Manzi had only returned to action on Nov. 29, 2013, after being sidelined with a pelvic fracture in a racing accident on September 6.
"Cat got the worst if it but was awake and sitting up before he was taken to hospital,” according to track photographer Helene Gregory. "Jimmy Pantaleano [driving Muscleslikesparty], Chris Scicluna [Brilliant Chief], Debbie Rucker [Silver Delivery], Vincent Ginsburg [Redwhitenbluestone] went to hospital also but were walking and talking. All horses walked off the track.”
The horses were corralled by outrider Beth Cumberland, who was aboard her horse Jazz. Most had scrapes and cuts. One had a puncture wound. Cumberland checked them all before she left the track and said they were okay.
"It was definitely a freak mishap, something I've never seen in 40 years in racing,” Freehold's Director of Racing and Racing Secretary Karen Fagliarone said. "Our main concern is always the safety of the horses and the drivers.”
Civic Duty with James Clarry driving, was on the lead and had cleared the accident in the field of seven trotters. The other starter was Region Hall with Rick Pantano, who was uninjured. (SBOANJ)