Brazilian jockey Maylan Studart makes her official return to the saddle this Saturday on Opening Day at Belmont Park for its historic 2013 Fall Championship Meet.
Studart's return marks the triumphant recovery from a serious concussion and three bulging disks suffered on February 2, when a horse bolted with her. She is slated for two mounts on Saturday in Belmont's fifth and ninth races.
After sustaining her injuries, with a tireless work ethic and a proactive positive attitude that Tony Robbins would be hard-pressed to match, a determined Maylan Studart began on what would become an intensive seven-month journey on the road to repair.
It began with physical therapy. Still, as March was coming to a close, the usually limber Studart was not even able to reach down and touch her toes.
There were days when she wondered if her career as a jockey might be over. On top of her physical pain, there was the stress and emotional pains to deal with on a daily basis—the just not knowing.
As the saying goes, it is always darkest before the dawn.
What followed for Studart were breakthroughs that would heal her not only physically, but also make it possible to resume her career as a jockey as well. In April, Studart began acupuncture sessions that proved beneficial.
However, Studart experienced big returns on her road back to racing once becoming a volunteer with HorseAbility's Special Olympics. By helping others with special needs in a therapeutic equine program, she began noticing the returns went full circle.
Studart found that the time working with others was helping her at the same time in a profound way. She was contributing, back with the horses, and suddenly more pieces began falling into place.
Most would think Studart making it back in time for the Championship Meet, and having mounts on Opening Day, is nothing short of remarkable. Astonishing would be more like it.
With strength, belief and sheer determination, she kept moving forward to ensure a full-throttle return to action a tiny bit at a time.
At the tender age of just 24, already Studart is battle-tested and has proven resilient.
On June 18, 2009, Studart suffered a broken leg when Leatherhead (a two-year old in training) reared up and struck her while she was walking in the barn at Belmont.
Studart underwent surgery that included the placement of an intrafemoral rod to repair her leg. Despite given a timetable to return in three to five months, she silenced the medical experts and was back galloping horses by mid-August.
Perhaps even more amazing, Studart went on to ride Leatherhead in his first career start (August 31, 2009) at Saratoga and later went on to break his maiden at odds approaching 10-1.
A tremendous athlete (who has worked as a stunt woman), it should prove fascinating seeing how a healthy Studart performs in the upcoming Championship Meet against the top competition on the New York Racing Association circuit.
In recording her 99th career victory on January 12, 2013, Studart displayed her uncanny ability to break from the gate like lightning and her tenacity.
Shooting to the front on W. W.'s Lady's Man (5-1) at Aqueduct, Studart found her horse headed in the stretch.
Instead of doing the typical fold so often witnessed during similar occurrences, Studart did the exact opposite—she fought right back and won the race by a nose.
Given Studart's mental toughness, will to succeed, reflexes and athleticism, expectations are high.
The good ones find a way to improve even while away. Look no further than Gary Stevens.
Of note: Upon her return to racing on Opening Day at Belmont Park, Maylan Studart showed no signs of being camera shy by riding directly into the Winner's Circle in just her second mount back.
In lighting up the tote board on Unprecedented at odds of over 11-1 in Belmont's ninth race, Studart's riding savvy was on full display while guiding the Saint Liam gelding to victory over a firm turf at the distance of one and one sixteenth miles.
Tracking the leaders, three wide, from fourth a few lengths back, Studart saved ground while moving to the rail entering the far turn. What followed could be described as a riding clinic.
Suddenly confronted with a wall of tightening horses, Studart angled to the three path at the five-sixteenth marker and mounted her rally.
While charging to the front in the stretch and engaging the current leader (You Tarzan), Studart managed to shake off getting bumped by the tiring horse.
Not to be denied, Studart then sealed the victory with Unprecedented by winning the race by three-quarters of a length returning $25.20.