In August '85, Aragon fell off a horse and hurt her back. "It wasn't even in the race," she said. "We'd finished, my mind was somewhere else, and I reached down to pat the horse and suddenly there wasn't any horse there."
Injuries, of course, are part of the job description. You cannot sit in a metal starting gate 800 or 900 times a year on an 1,100-pound animal with bad nerves and not get mashed fingers and knees and feet. And if you ride, eventually you are going to fall.
And if the injuries are serious enough to keep you off the horses, someone else is going to ride them, and it's hard to get them back after you've healed. Trainers use other riders, and loyalties, as Coffey pointed out, are confined to what works. So Aragon rode hurt for the month of September. She left the track, still hurt, and took five weeks off to mend, then headed down to Bay Meadows.
The horses and the money are better in Northern California than they are at Long-acres, but she kept winning. Thirty-seven times in three months. One day she had three wins and a place out of four races. She went back to Longacres last April.
"There are a certain number of people in any field that turn out to be a flash in the pan," Coffey said. "And the main argument about Vicky was that she wouldn't be the same rider when she lost her bug [the five-pound apprentice allowance]."
Aragon lost her apprenticeship and weight allowance on July 20 of last year. On Aug. 1 she served a kind of notice, winning six races in one day.
"It didn't change anything," she said. "If anything, things got better."
There were people around the track, though, who noticed a change. "I heard her agent complaining that she was telling him which horses to get for her," a Longacres official said. "She'd want to ride some 20-to-1 shot instead of the favorite, because a friend of hers was the trainer. She wouldn't listen to anybody. People said things.
"But then, some of what you hear is true, and some of it isn't. Earlier in the year a couple of the better jockeys at the track came in after a race complaining that she'd cut them off, saying she was going to kill somebody. Then we looked at the films, and she'd just outridden them. She'd taken a hole that was there, and they were embarrassed.
"There's a lot of pressure being the leading jockey, and she's young and it showed. She rode more than anybody else, so she had more opportunities to get suspended or fined. Still, that's a lot of suspensions and fines."