Edmond jockey shares special bond with horse after accident likely saved his life

OKLAHOMA CITY - An Edmond jockey said his horse's misstep actually saved his life.

It takes a lot of trust to get on the back of an animal at their top speed. But, for one local team, it's a bond few could understand.

"I'm grateful to him, and he's just a blessing," said Jose Vega.

Vega has been around race horses since he was a child. But, in August of last year, a race in San Antonio ended with the worst accident of his career.

"We had a spill," he said. "The horse clipped heels."

Both Vega and the horse - Royal Chachingalinga - went rolling on the track. He went to the hospital to get checked out.

Amazingly, doctors didn't find any broken bones. But, they did find something significant - a cancerous tumor on one of Vega's kidneys.

"I think God puts you in places so He does things for a reason," he said.

Vega underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumor - keeping him off the track for 2 1/2 months. That was the longest he'd ever been off a race horse. It's a feeling he said now he'll never take for granted.

"I'll be honest. My eyes wanted to tear, being glad to be back on a horse," he said.

It didn't take long for Vega to get back in the winning circle; he's currently a top 5 jockey at Remington Park. But, the miracles didn't stop there.

Just a few months ago, Royal's owner, Glen Wilkinson, called Jose. He wanted to give the horse to the Vega family.

"The first out, we run him, we win, and we run him again and he won second," Vega said. "That's why he really wanted to give us to him because he really thought he would be a blessing for me and my family."

Royal now belongs to Vega's daughter, but he said he will always have a special place in his heart for the horse that saved his life.

"Even before the accident, I had liked him and it was just a nice thing that could have happened," he said.

Vega will have checkups over the next 4-5 years. He wants to say thank you to everyone in the racing industry who has supported him.

This weekend at Remington Park, in addition to races, The Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association will have their 10th anniversary of 'Betting On A Cure.'

The auction benefits 'Rein In Cancer,' a nonprofit that provides support for Vega and cancer patients just like him.

For more information visit reinincancer.com.

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