'First Lady of Prairie Meadows' retires

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June 10, 2006

Horse Racing A Look Back

The "First Lady of Prairie Meadows" is turning to a new chapter in life.

Jockey Cindy Noll Murphy, who suffered a spinal cord injury in a May 11 spill at Prairie Meadows, Friday said she is retiring.

"My doctor advised me that it would be very detrimental for me if I were to ride again, so I guess that's it," said Murphy, 44. "I have a spur in my neck and if I go down again, they say it could sever my spinal cord.

"I'm sad about it, but at least I can walk."

She retires with 1,833 career thoroughbred victories, according to Equibase, ranking third among female jockeys.

Murphy, then known as Cindy Springman, won the first race held at Prairie Meadows on March 1, 1989 aboard Holmish. A native of Muscatine, she won 805 races at Prairie Meadows and is second to Glenn Corbett among the track's career riding leaders.

She won 112 races at Prairie Meadows in 1998, which at the time was a track record. She led the nation's female riders in wins in 1994 and 1998.

"She's been the First Lady of Prairie Meadows as far as I'm concerned," trainer Larry Hunt said. "She's a terrific race-rider."

Hunt said he was glad that Murphy didn't risk further injury.

"I think it's a wonderful choice," he said. "She's a wonderful girl, I love her like my daughter, but she's been beat up so bad and hurt so many times, that I think it was time to retire.

"She has three wonderful children. She has a lot of reasons not to be crippled. The last one was a pretty scary deal."

Murphy's May 11 injury came when her mount, Ninnescah, stumbled coming out of the starting gate and then was hit by a horse veering outward. The shift in momentum sent Murphy flying head-first to the ground.

She lay motionless for a half-hour before being taken away by an emergency helicopter, the first time one has been needed at Prairie Meadows for a racing injury.

She had injured her neck in a previous spill, increasing the risk for severe injuries.

Murphy said that she is regaining movement and strength in her limbs.

"I still have a lot of arm weakness," she said. "I can do all the day-to-day light stuff, but I can't lift much and struggle to grip stuff with my hands.

"They're hoping that with time it will get back to normal, but you never know. They tell me it could be a month, a year or never."

Murphy, who was all-state in track and cross-country at Muscatine High School, has a bachelor's degree in animal science. She started riding in 1986 and won her first race in Argentina.