A different kind of victory for First Class Chic
She may not have won, or even hit the board, but the journey for First Class Chic in Race 11 at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino Tuesday, June 28 marked a victory. First Class Chic and owners Donna Gerard and Carter Riley were all making their first start back after a horrific head-on collision on Route 9 south of Greenfield, Ind.
Gerard and Riley had driven to Indiana Grand the morning of Oct. 5, 2015 for their normal training routine and loaded up to head home to their farm in Mechanicsburg, Ind., about an hour north of the track. On the trip home, Carter was driving the truck and trailer when a car, for unknown reasons, crossed the center line, hitting them head-on and knocking them down a hill. Riley was hurt the worst, suffering a broken back in nine places, a broken neck, numerous broken ribs and a crushed foot. Gerard suffered a broken arm and the then two-year-old filly in the trailer had cuts and swelling in several portions of her body. Luckily for First Class Chic, the trailer stayed upright and didn’t overturn. Both she and Riley had to be extracted from the truck and trailer by the “Jaws of Life.”
Riley, who has long been a guiding force in Indiana Quarter Horse racing, recovered as did Gerard. Their filly, a homebred daughter of First to Shake Six out of Classy Chic in Vegas, was the last to get the okay.
“I raced her mother (Classy Chic in Vegas) and won with her up at Hoosier Park before she retired,” said Riley, who won the very first pari-mutuel Quarter Horse race in the state of Indiana in 1997 at Hoosier Park. “This filly is just like her mom. You could clone them.”
First Class Chic had one start at two in June last year. She was on the comeback trail to making another start when the accident occurred.
“We didn’t push her,” said Gerard, who serves as the filly’s trainer. “We’ve been taking our time. We made sure she was ready to go back into training and we had her x-rayed and scanned before we started back. This was a big day for all of us.”
First Class Chic, ridden by Jose Beltran for the first time, broke from post six. The three-year-old sorrel filly broke in mid pack and maintained her position throughout to finish sixth. Born to Beatcha and Alex Estrada won the 250 yard dash in a time of :13.515 seconds. First Class Chic was three lengths back of the winner, a respectable first start back.
“We are very pleased with her (First Class Chic) performance,” said Riley. “We are pleased she stayed up there with them in between horses. She showed us she’s in good enough shape to race, too. We’ll just try it again.”
The feat of being back in action for the trio is far more important than a trip to the winner’s circle. That will come with time.
“She (First Class Chic) fought all the way,” said Gerard. “She’ll do better next time. We are just glad to be back.”
Riley and Gerard both know the meaning of fighting back. Riley endured numerous injuries on the track during his 35-plus jockey career and Gerard is a cancer survivor. Together, they have a new look on their horses.
“I’ve always liked and used the colors blue and white,” said Riley. “Donna (Gerard) is a cancer survivor and she always used pink and white. So when we got together we made a compromise. Our colors are now pink, white and blue. We use the white to separate the pink and blue so it doesn’t look like purple. But our colors mean a lot to us and stand for something.”
First Class Chic was decked out in pink, white and blue, from the silks to her bridle to her blinkers. It was truly a milestone day for the stable, and hopes are high that the pink, white and blue silks will be visible in the winner’s circle sometime soon at Indiana Grand.