Rajiv Maragh: A lesson in resiliency

If one were to name the top Jamaican athletes currently competing internationally, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson and Chris Gayle are some of the names that would readily come to mind.

Rajiv Maragh is all smiles after winning the Wood Memorial with Irish War Cry in 2017.

Well, add to the list, Rajiv Maragh, the diminutive 114 pounds 34-year-old dynamo from out of Kingston, who, since 2005, has been making a huge splash on the North American circuit, firmly establishing himself as one of the top horse racing jockeys in the United States and also the world.

“As I went down, the horse fell on me where I suffered several broken vertebrae, a punctured lung and broken ribs from the fall.”

— Rajiv Maragh

A winner of nearly 2,000 races since he first got his jockey’s license in 2003, Maragh, the son of former top-flight jockey turned trainer Colin Maragh, has also amassed more than US$100 million in purse earnings, averaging a personal income of US$1million per year.

Lucky to be alive

Currently plying his trade at the Gulfstream Race Track, Florida, it is almost easy to forget that it was only five years ago when a spill at the famed Belmont Park (New York) almost cost him his life.

“I am very lucky to be alive today,” Maragh said, shaking his head as he reminisced on the near-miss accident on July 10, 2015 as he sat down for an interview in a visit to the island recently.

“As I went down, the horse fell on me where I suffered several broken vertebrae, a punctured lung and broken ribs from the fall. There were eight fractures of the spine. It took three days before I could make my first steps while I had to stay in the house for three months, only leaving twice for a hospital visit.”

Being sidelined

Maragh further explained that he had to wear an upper-body brace for nine months and he was restricted from “bending, twisting and lifting.”

“It was an ordeal that took me away from the racetrack for 16 months and where many persons had concluded that I would never ride again,” he pointed out.

Rajiv and his wife, Angelina, at the Iberostar Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica, recently.

“It was real tough… the rehabilitation and all the hard work and pain that came along with it. It became very frustrating at times, being sidelined and unable to do even the most basic of things. I have to say a special thank you to my wife, Angelina, for being there every step of the way and for helping me to keep my sanity intact. I always knew deep down that I was never going to go out like that and that a comeback was always on the cards.”

Long-awaited return

And, come back he did! On November 4, 2017, he made that long-awaited return at Aqueduct to the delight of racing fans and also his fellow jockeys, a number of whom gave him a lot of moral support during his rehabilitation process.

A former student of Meadowbrook High School in St Andrew, Maragh, who has ridden in faraway places such as Dubai and Japan, has the distinction of being the only Caribbean rider to have placed twice in the world’s most prestigious horse race, the Kentucky Derby – third in 2011 with Mucho Macho Man and fourth in 2014 with Wicked Strong.

He has also won four Breeders Cup races, again the most ever for a Caribbean jockey, and a number of rich stake races, including the Arkansas Derby, the Wood Memorial and the Jim Dandy.