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Jockey severs spine during race at Golden Gate Fields

24-year-old known in Northern California horseracing community

A 24-year-old jockey is in critical but stable condition at Highland Hospital after severing his spinal cord in a fall during a race at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley on Sunday, track physician Dr. David Seftel said Tuesday.

Michael Martinez was riding Fair 'n Warmer, a 3-year-old filly, in the fifth race on Sunday when he was thrown from the horse and the horse fell on top of him, Seftel said.

The fall shattered three thoracic vertebrae, and Martinez also suffered brain hemorrhaging, fractured ribs, and had bleeding in both lungs. He is paralyzed from the waist down, according to Seftel.

The doctor it was the "worst injury we've seen" in at least the past decade at the racetrack.

"But this is a young man who is very strong, and despite all his injuries, it's probable that he will pull through," Seftel said.

Tuesday morning, Martinez remained in a medically induced coma after undergoing 11 hours of emergency surgery Sunday night.

His fiancée, Charlotte Garcia, is expecting the couple's first child at some point this week, Seftel said.

"He's a very warm person," Seftel said. "It's an unprecedented tragedy."

Martinez is the second-leading jockey during this summer's season at Golden Gate Fields, and had already won an earlier race on Sunday.

Fair 'n Warmer, the horse he was riding, scrambled back to her feet after the fall and appeared to be uninjured.

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