UPDATE : Fitch is recovering nicely from his injuries sustained Monday night. Doctors
are looking at a full recovery with some outpatient therapy. Doctors still are unaware of why Fitch fell from his sulky.
Maine harness driver Leigh Fitch was rushed to Maine Medical Center Monday evening,
September 24, after he fell from his sulky prior to the start of the fourth race at
the Cumberland Fair.
Fellow drivers said that Fitch, driving the pacer Think I Will, trained by his partner
Stacey Lord, suddenly dropped the handholds of his reins and fell backward off the
sulky as the eight horses were following the starting gate, about an eighth of a mile
before the start. The incident occurred at about 7:50 p.m.
It was to have been Fitch's first drive since May 26, when the pacer he was driving,
BP Diet Food, fell and injured Fitch during a race at Scarborough Downs. A native of
Sebago, Maine, Fitch turned 67 years old on Sept. 21.
Fitch was listed in critical condition upon arriving at MMC, where doctors put him
in an induced coma to stabilize him. Today they listed him in serious condition. They
have said that he is responding well to medications. They were not able to list a cause
as to why the Hall of Fame driver fell off the bike Monday evening, but that he did
not incur any head injuries during the fall.
A winner of 7,589 races, Fitch often won races by lurking on the inside of the field
throughout the race. "I didn't want to be like all the others. I wanted to be myself,"
he said in a 1996 Hoof Beats profile. "Winning was always life and death for me."
One of his greatest driving seasons came in 1988, when Walter Case, Jr. returned from
the metropolitan New York and Chicago circuits to race in Maine. Battling Case head
to head all year, Fitch, who campaigned almost exclusively in Maine during his career,
won 472 races, the most of his career.
Fitch's was a dangerous style of racing -- to himself, not others -- and he estimated
that he was involved in about five accidents a year, or about 150 lifetime, by the
mid-1990s. "Someone told me at the hospital that I've had as many X-rays as anyone
they'd ever seen," he told Hoof Beats.
Fitch's first win was in 1962 aboard the pacer Miss Marie Pointer at the Windsor Fair.
Among fans, he will forever be associated with driving and training older pacers with
storied careers, like Crimson, Ruckus and Fireball Almahurst. "Maybe I like the old
horses, because I feel I'm looking at myself in the future," he said.
We will keep you updated on Leigh's condition as we get information, and be sure to
check out our Facebook page to hear the latest developing story as soon as we get it.