Promising jockey shot during alleged burglary
Until yesterday, Angel Suarez was known around the race track as the horse-whispering whiz kid.
UNTIL YESTERDAY, Angel Suarez was known around the race track as the horse-whispering whiz kid.
Just 21, the quiet jockey based at Parx Racing won so many races - and millions of dollars - two years ago that he drew national notice as one of the sport's top apprentices. That he'd come late to racing made his success even more astounding.
"He had no racing background," his former agent, Donna Servis, told the Daily Racing Form in 2013. "He woke up one day, told his mom he wanted to be a jockey, and she said, 'What?' He was very smart in school, and she thought he'd be a doctor. It's a Cinderella story, except it's all true."
But the fairy tale came to a bloody, bizarre end Sunday night in a blizzard of glass and gunfire. Bensalem police say Suarez climbed onto a second-floor deck at the Franklin Commons Apartments on Bobolink Drive about 8:35 p.m., where he masturbated until a woman inside discovered him and called 9-1-1.
As the woman ran to a neighbor's apartment, Suarez busted through her sliding-glass door, fled outside again by diving out her second-floor bedroom window and then broke into another nearby apartment, where he assaulted two people, said Lt. William McVey of Bensalem Police.
One resident grabbed his legally registered gun and shot Suarez in the chest and abdomen. Even then, Suarez didn't stop struggling until police subdued him, McVey said.
He remains in critical condition at Aria Health's Torresdale hospital. He'll face burglary, assault and related charges once his condition improves, McVey said.
Dave Yannuzzi, Suarez's current agent, said Suarez is in an induced coma and has undergone surgery - and faces further operations - to repair injuries to his liver and pancreas.
Suarez lives with his girlfriend, a jockey at Penn National Race Course, in the same apartment complex as the break-ins, Yannuzzi said.
As news of the night's mayhem reached the Parx backstretch, many who know Suarez tried to make sense of something so surreal.
"It's not him; it's not characteristic of him," said Tommy Pointer, an agent who represented him for a year. "The kid lives and breathes horses. He's one of the greatest, nicest, most well-spoken and clean-cut kids you'll ever meet in your life. I don't think I ever even heard the kid cuss. I'm floored by this. I can't believe it, and I've been around the racetrack a long time."
Yannuzzi agreed: "He looks like a freaking altar boy. And he's nicer than he looks."
Reached yesterday, Servis offered only, "He's a sweetheart and an excellent jockey."
Pointer, Yannuzzi and others speculated that Suarez used some substance like bath salts or PCP, notorious for turning users into rampaging maniacs, even as they swore he wasn't known to dabble in drugs.
"I said to my wife, 'If you had told me this yesterday, I would have bet you 100 to 10 that the kid never smoked a joint,' " Yannuzzi said.
Pointer said: "The kid weighs 110 pounds and he took two .45-caliber bullets. Who gets shot twice with a .45 and keeps fighting? He had to be on something."
Yannuzzi said Suarez's girlfriend told him he was acting oddly and nursing a red drink when he briefly stopped home before setting off on his alleged crime spree.
McVey said toxicology tests are routine in such incidents, but results could take days to weeks.
"But we have no evidence of that at this point," McVey said. "That's no excuse anyway if you were under the influence of something when you commit an F-1 felony [the highest grade]. He was extremely dangerous. He was quite a bit to handle for us and everyone he came into contact with."
Suarez, a Puerto Rico native whose full name is Angel Suarez Medero, first rode professionally in 2012 - and did so well he was named an Eclipse Award finalist for outstanding apprentice jockey. He had 923 mounts with 151 wins that year, earning more than $3.4 million in purse earnings for his owners - more than any other rookie nationally.
Last year, he had 770 rides with 88 wins, and this year, 539 mounts, with 58 wins. He was scheduled for four rides yesterday and four more today. Besides Parx, he also rode at Penn National, outside Harrisburg.
He won Sunday's seventh race at Parx on a horse named England, about five hours before he allegedly went berserk on Bobolink Drive.
Bensalem police ask anyone with information about Suarez or Sunday's incident to call them at 215-633-3719.
A dachshund who lived in the first apartment Suarez allegedly broke into has been missing since the attack. Anyone who finds the dog also is urged to call police to help reunite the dog and owner.
- Daily News Sports Writer Dick Jerardi contributed to this report.