A GoFundMe page has been set up to defray medical expenses for former jockey Chris Stargel, an Omaha native who rode in the early 1990s.
According to a Facebook page, Stargel was hospitalized with an infection in November. He was later diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the nervous system.
The rare disease has left Stargel, who worked as a carpenter the past 20 years, paralyzed and unable to talk.
The page was set up to benefit the Stargel family — Chris, his wife Erin and their two daughters.
Stargel grew up in Omaha and attended Sunny Slope Elementary and Morton Junior High. He was attending Omaha Burke in 1991, the same year he rode in his first race at Ak-Sar-Ben.
He later rode in Oklahoma and Arkansas as well as Nebraska. He had mounts in 827 races and had 84 wins, 92 second-place finishes and 100 third-place finishes.
Omaha hangs tough
It came as no surprise that Secretariat, considered the greatest racehorse of all time, won Saturday’s running of a virtual Kentucky Derby.
But mention should be made of Omaha, who also put in a strong effort.
The event, which consisted of all 13 Triple Crown winners, featured computer-generated imagery. It was held on the same day that this year’s Derby was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Seattle Slew, the 1977 champion, led most of the way. He was stalked closely throughout the 1¼-mile race by Omaha, the 1935 champion.
In the stretch, 1973 champ Secretariat grabbed the lead and went on to score the victory. Citation, the 1948 champion, was second and Seattle Slew hung on for third. Omaha finished 11th.
After his retirement from racing and his duty as a stud at farms in Kentucky and New York, Omaha lived the final nine years of his life on a farm near Nebraska City.
When Omaha died in 1959 at the age of 27, he was buried at the former Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack.
Fonner still racing
Grand Island’s Fonner Park resumed its live race meet this week, continuing to race Mondays through Wednesdays for 12 days.
Those May racing days, an extension of the track’s original meet dates, were granted by the Nebraska Racing Commission following the cancellation of the live meet at Omaha’s Horsemen’s Park because of COVID-19.
Armando Martinez continues to lead the jockey standings at Fonner with 50 wins in 218 starts. His mounts also have run second in 35 races and third in 28.
Jake Olesiak is second with 46 wins while Dakota Wood is third with 33.
Isai Gonzalez leads the trainer standings with 28 wins, one more than Kelli Martinez. David Anderson is third with 21.
Six are inducted
Six new members were inducted into the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame at a banquet earlier in the Fonner race meet.
The inductees were jockeys Tim Doocy and Ken Shino, trainers Larry Donlin Sr. and Larry Staroscik, racing commission employee Ann Shea and Nebraska racing circuit bookkeeper Carolyn Legenza.
Staroscik and Shea were honored posthumously. They both passed away in 2019.
Other Hall of Famers who attended the event included jockey John Lively, a 10-time riding champion at Ak-Sar-Ben.
Maximum Security update
Maximum Security, owned by Omahans Gary and Mary West, has moved on to the West Coast and is in training at Santa Anita in suburban Los Angeles.
The horse is now under the guidance of trainer Bob Baffert following a federal indictment against previous trainer Jason Servis for allegedly doping horses.
Maximum Security is coming off a victory in the Saudi Cup on Feb. 29. But as a result of the Servis allegations, the $20 million purse of that race has been withheld pending the results of an investigation by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia.
The 4-year-old by New Year’s Day won last year’s Kentucky Derby but was disqualified and placed 17th for interference entering the stretch.
Slowing it down
OK, it technically wasn’t a horse race.
But mention should be made of the Kentucky Turtle Derby held Saturday in the absence of the real Derby.
The event was a throwback to 1945, when horse racing was suspended for part of the year because of World War II. The Kentucky Derby was delayed by a month that year and a charity turtle race was held instead on the first Saturday in May — the Derby’s traditional race date.
This year’s winner was What The Turtleneck, the longest shot in the eight-turtle field at 86-1. Unlike the race in 1945, no wagering on this race was allowed.
The most creative name in the field had to be Seattle Slow, named after Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
The Nebraska 100: Our greatest athletes
The Nebraska 100, originally selected in 2005 and then updated and re-ranked in 2015, came from a pool of nearly 500 names from the ranks of high school, college, amateur and professional sports from the past 140 years. Assistance came from a panel of veteran sports observers from across the state, with the newspaper's sports staff determining the final rankings.