Highly-successful Barbadian jockey Rico Walcott will miss the start ot the season at the newly-opened Century Mile, as he recovers from brain surgery.
The 29-year-old suffered four seizures and had to be rushed to hospital back in March where subsequent CT scans revealed a tumor on the left side of his brain. He them successfully underwent surgery to remove the golf ball-size growth.
Doctors have said Walcott could be fit to ride again in two months but agent Bob Fowlis said the priority was to ensure a full recovery for the ace rider.
“Basically he was a very healthy 29-year-old that had no symptoms of seizures until March 2nd and he had four seizures that day. He had two of the seizures at home, one in the ambulance and another at the hospital,” Fowlis explained.
“On March 3rd at the University Hospital they did a scan from his shoulders down and everything was clean and good. On March 4th they did a MRI on his head and brain and found the tumor on the front left part by his forehead.”
He continued: “They took the majority of the tumor out and just the other day his doctors told Rico that if everything goes well he might be able to return in about eight weeks.
“Because of the seizure, he can’t drive a car. But he’s never had a seizure before, so the first thing is to get as clean a bill of health as possible, give him his driver’s licence back and then worry about clearing him to get back on a horse.”
Walcott made his name at the now well-known Northlands Park which closed its doors last October, winning the last eight titles at the western Canada racetrack.
All told, he racked up 1 292 winners and over CAN$17 million in winnings, and is a five-time winner of the prestigious Canadian Derby.
Trainer Robertino Diodoro, with whom Walcott has won four of his Derby titles, said he was hoping for a positive outcome.
“I’d been in contact with him while they were waiting to hear back from the doctors,” Diodoro said.
“It’s been a very scary situation. Our thoughts and prayers have been with him, that’s for sure. He’s too young for this.”
jockey Shannon Beauregard, who has stacked nearly 900 career wins while riding alongside Walcott at Northlands, backed the multiple-time champion to make a full recovery.
“The staples are all out now and he’s doing good. He’ll be back. I know that without even asking him. He’ll be back,” said Beauregard who has remained in contact with Walcott.
She added: “It’s always nice to ride with good riders and he’s a very good rider, obviously. He’ll be missed for the next number of weeks as we begin this new adventure together. We’re all competitors. But we’re friends, too.
“It’s going to suck that he’s not going to be around to start, but I’m happy that he’s going to be OK and that he’ll be able to come back, so that’s all that matters to me.”
The Century Mile season runs from April 28 until August 26.