BALTIMORE, 03-30-12---Apprentice rider Sarah Rook missed nearly three months after breaking her left collarbone in a spill at Laurel Park January 5. The 25-year-old made a triumphant return with a victory aboard Great Harbour ($7.20) in the seventh race on opening day of the Pimlico spring meet.

“I was locked and loaded with this one,” Rook said. “I starting getting back on horses about three and a half weeks ago and feel really good.”

Rook has bounced around the country in her quest to become a jockey. She worked at Mountaineer Park and Colonial Downs then hooked up with Maryland-based conditioner Frannie Campitelli at Pimlico (2007-2008). Her next stop was at Delaware Park with Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard before landing a gig with trainer Dickie Small in September 2010. She made her debut a winning one with a score aboard Emosewa for Small at Pimlico on April 29, 2011.

“Pimlico is a special place to me,” added Rook. “This is the place where I really learned to gallop and then ride a horse (while working for Campitelli). Winning my first race at one of the most famous tracks in the country is an awesome feeling.”

She then went to Colonial Downs and finished third in the standings and finished the year with 88 victories, including a score in the Selima Stakes at Laurel Park aboard Softly Lit.

Rook is named to ride nine horses the remainder of the weekend, including mounts for top trainers Dane Kobiskie, Dale Capuano and Howard Wolfendale.

“Everyone has been extremely kind in terms of getting me back on live horses,” added Rook.

Great Harbour is trained by Kobiskie, who won two races on opening day. He also visited the winners’ circle with 11-year-old Hands On ($5.40) in the finale. The son of Friendly Lover is 23-of-90 lifetime with earnings of $597,995.

Trainer Hugh McMahon also saddled two winners on the 10-race card, winning with Wolfcamp ($3.40-second) and Baileys Beach ($15-eighth).

The marquee race meeting of the year got underway this afternoon under cloudy skies but the weather could not dampen a buzz of anticipation from an enthusiastic, opening day crowd of 3,857, which included Kegasus, the Preakness InfieldFest mascot and his personal assistant-trainer UniCarl. The Lord of the InfieldFest met with reporters from all four Baltimore television stations, WBAL Radio and the Baltimore Sun on the press box roof overlooking the Pimlico infield.

The 29-day spring meeting will feature live racing on a Thursday through Sunday schedule (with holiday exceptions) through Saturday, May 19. The signature race of the stand is the 137th Preakness® Stakes, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, which is 50 days from today, on closing day.

Saturday’s 11-race card is headlined by the $50,000 Shine Again Stakes for fillies and mares.


WHITACRE INJURED IN TRAINING SPILL, WILL MISS ENTIRE SPRING MEET

Jockey Grant Whitacre will miss the entire spring meeting after he cracked the T6 vertebra in his back and broke his nose during a spill during training Friday morning at Laurel Park. The T6 vertebra is located in the thoracic (middle) region of the spine.

The 26-year-old missed three months in 2010 when he fractured the T8 vertebra in a spill.

“He is disappointed,” said Whitacre’s agent Paul Plymire. “Grant is a hard working kid who will ride anything for anybody. He was riding day and night and doing okay, both here and at Charles Town.

Whitacre finished 11th in the rider standings at the recently completed Laurel Park meet. A winner of 337 races, he had the signature win of his career aboard Sumacha’hot in the 2009 Jim McKay Maryland Million Classic.

Whitacre also portrayed Paul Feliciano in the 2010 movie “Secretariat”. Feliciano rode the 1973 Triple Crown winner in his first two career starts while as an apprentice, before the connections turned to the more experienced Ron Turcotte.