Pablo Morales Recovering After Losing Finger In ‘Freakiest Accident’ by Mike Henry/Tampa Bay Downs|03.24.2023|5:00pm Jockey Pablo Morales About 30 years from now, when a bunch of retired jockeys gather to talk about freak injuries, Pablo Morales will have a story to top all of them. The 34-year-old Tampa resident was awaiting the start of Sunday's first race aboard 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Nicolino when all heck broke loose in the starting gate. In a matter of milliseconds, the horse to his outside flipped in the gate, and Morales felt a burning sensation shoot through his right hand. While the outside horse, 4-year-old Florida-bred Azulene, was scratched as a precaution, Morales quickly realized he was going nowhere. His pinkie finger hung loose, with the bone protruding through his gloved hand. “I wasn't sure what happened. But when I saw my hand and went into the ambulance, I knew it was really bad,” Morales said Wednesday from home, where he is recuperating from the incident. Morales underwent surgery Sunday night, and doctors successfully reattached his pinkie, raising hopes he'll be good as new before long – long being a relative term, given he is already resigned to missing the remainder of the current Tampa Bay Downs meet. Azulene was not hurt, according to her trainer, Luis Dominguez. Nicolino returned to the paddock, where Daniel Centeno substituted for Morales, riding her to a second-place finish. About all Morales could do on the ride to the hospital was curse fate and pray his finger could be saved. “It takes a toll mentally, especially because I was doing so well,” said Morales, who is second to Samy Camacho in the Oldsmar standings with 53 victories. “I can't do the things I enjoy, like playing the guitar or being on my phone, because I have a very big cast, and I can't help out by washing the dishes or cleaning. So I'm just circling around the house. “I know I'm going to make a full recovery – I just don't know when. I'll do whatever I need to do to recover and come back strong,” said Morales, who is hopeful of pursuing his ninth riding title at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., sometime after that meet begins May 15. Surgeons used a pin and a wire to reattach the finger, and Morales said the hardware will be removed in a few weeks and his condition will be reassessed. “As soon as I know more, I can start planning for a comeback.” Originally, Morales thought he was injured after a fractious Azulene reared and struck his right hand – which he was using to brace himself in his stall in case of danger – with her hoof. But a video sent to him by a cousin suggests she may have first bitten his finger when she stuck her nose into his stall before rearing and landing on her haunches. Upon reflection, Morales thinks his pinkie was chomped. “When I looked at the video, it was like we both reached that point at the same time,” Morales said. “My horse took a fast step forward, and when I reached with my hand to hold on to the bar (between the stalls), she (Azulene) reached to the left with her head and we met in the middle. I was getting ready to grab some mane again (for the start), and when I saw my finger I thought, Oh my God, this is terrible. “The timing was unbelievable. It's the freakiest accident I've ever been involved in.” Morales, who rode career winner No. 2,500 here last month on Roger McQueen, says he is fortunate to have the support of his family and loved ones. “My wife (Erin) stayed with me that night at the hospital, and my kids (Sophia, 12, and Camilo, 10) have been a huge source of support. My sister and my niece came up from Miami to help Erin. I'm blessed and thankful to have a family that is behind me in everything. I know it's been tough for my agent, Paula Bacon, who was the first to respond and cares for me very much.” E-mails and texts from countless friends and fans flooded his inboxes over the next few days, a reminder of his impact outside the realm of competition. “I haven't been able to get back to everybody, but it makes me feel very appreciated. I'm thankful to everyone who has reached out,” he said.