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Molinari Riding High; Jockey Healthy, Happy In Return To Saddle
By Ed Gray
June 26, 2003
Turf racing was cancelled again at Suffolk Downs yesterday, and no one could have been more disappointed than jockey Edwin Molinari. While turf racing offers a pleasant diversion to bettors, it puts money in the pocket of the veteran jockey who has built a reputation as one of New England's best grass course riders.
"When I ride on the turf, I feel more aggressive. I feel more excited, because turf is faster. I like to go fast," Molinari said before yesterday's races.
Although the especially rainy spring has kept the lush green grass course too soft for racing (with the exception of only two stakes won by Maryland shippers ridden by Ramon Dominguez last Saturday), Molinari has still managed to make an impact on the local racing scene.
The future, which should include plenty of turf racing with a little luck and a little good weather, looks a lot brighter for the veteran jockey than it did last December, when he called it quits on a riding carer that had begun at Suffolk Downs in 1987.
"I was having health problems. I had kidney stones and a little trouble with my liver. I had an infection because of my kidney," said Molinari. "I couldn't do any exercise or running. I had a couple of days good, then a couple days with pain. I couldn't do much. I wasn't really fit to ride. I couldn't prepare myself to ride the way I wanted."
The 38-year-old Molinari, whose kidney condition required surgery in December, decided to pursue a new career as a jockey's agent and contacted Jose Bermudez, a former New England rider who had spent the past several years in New York and New Jersey. The duo got off to a good start, but Molinari quickly found out that he wasn't cut out to be an agent.
"It gave me the time to recover from my problems and gave me the time to prepare myself to ride and train - pullups, pushups, the things I couldn't do before because of the pain," the native of Puerto Rico said. "I'm not going to be an agent when I retire. I found out that's not for me. I think you have to be more aggressive. It's not for me. When I retire, I'd like to be a trainer. I'd like to stay with the horses."
Retirement isn't an option right now. As he discovered that he wasn't cut out to be an agent, Molinari found that his health had rebounded to the point where riding again became an option.
"I got rid of my kidney stones and my liver was OK. I said, `let me try again'," said Molinari. "Before I started to ride, I was jogging and exercising, and I felt better than before. Thanks to the owners and trainers who gave me a chance to prove I was feeling better and riding better than before."
Molinari's return to riding in mid April was well-received by local trainers, who have provided him with 20 winning mounts, including 10 in June.
"It gives me more confidence," said Molinari, who rode his 1,000th winner last year. "I feel that I owe them, so I prepare myself better to give them a better ride on their horses."
Happy to be back riding, Molinari will be faced with a decision on what to do when Suffolk Downs is expected to take a long winter break from live racing this fall.
"I don't know what I'll do yet. I'm a family man. I don't want to go places if I don't have to. If I don't have to go, I'll stay here," said Molinari, who resides in Londonderry, N.H., with his wife Maria, 9-year-old daughter Edmarie and 12-year-old son Edwin Jr. "I'm trying to save money, so I can take the winter off. I need my family."