On Sunday, every jockey riding at Saratoga Race Course stopped preparing for their races and signed a photo to benefit injured jockey Michael Straight of East Greenbush. Straight was paralyzed in an accident from the waist down in Arlington Park in 2009.
For a $10 donation, fans got a copy of the photo, featuring the riders lined up in the paddock in front of the statue of 1993 Kentucky Derby and Travers winner “Sea Hero” and all proceeds went to help Straight.
The autograph session raised $2,927. Additionally, the Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation made a $5,000 donation to Straight, who was on hand at the track.
Straight was paralyzed from the waist down in a spill at Arlington Park in 2009. He has volunteered to work with The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and begun walking in a bionic exoskeleton. The exoskeleton provides upright ambulation for people with spinal cord injuries and gives them the ability to stand and walk again on their own. Straight, who suffered head and spinal injuries, has progressed to the point where he has walked for eight minutes, 25 seconds and taken 126 steps.
"We are so appreciative of The Miami Project, what they have done and are continuing to do," said Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Chairman of the Jockeys' Guild and Board member of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). "This research is very important for so many lives, including a number of jockeys who receive support from the PDJF, as well as other individuals in the racing industry. We are so proud of Michael. His hard work and determination is inspiring to all of us."