Paco Lopez to have surgery

Paco Lopez will undergo surgery Thursday at Aventura Hospital in Hallandale Fla. to repair a displaced fracture of the left clavicle suffered in a spill in the final race at Gulfstream Park on March 17.

Lopez had originally been diagnosed with six broken ribs and a fractured collarbone that doctors said would take four to six weeks to heal without surgery. But after undergoing additional X-rays and conferring with two specialists earlier this week, Lopez was informed the fracture was displaced and required surgery.

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“After reading the X-rays the doctors said his injury would heal quicker with surgery,” said Cory Moran, Lopez’s agent. “The prognosis is for a complete recovery that could take anywhere from five to six more weeks.”

Prior to his injury, Lopez, the Gulfstream Park riding champion in 2010 and 2011, had planned on riding at Keeneland and then moving on to Churchill Downs at the conclusion of the current Gulfstream meet. Moran said he is now targeting May 12, opening day at Monmouth Park, for his return.

Lopez is the regular rider of Force Freeze, runner-up in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Lopez rode Force Freeze to an impressive victory in his 2012 debut in Gulfstream’s Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Handicap and was hoping to be back in time to be aboard for his next start scheduled in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.

“At the moment, it doesn’t look like Paco will be back in time to ride Force Freeze in his next start,” Moran said.

Trainer Peter Walder said Wednesday he’s secured the services of Rafael Bejarano to ride Force Freeze if Lopez is unavailable for the Churchill Downs.

“Rafael is my back up rider in the likelihood Paco cannot ride Force Freeze in his next start, although the mount remains Paco’s whenever he returns, I’m not going to penalize him because he got hurt,” said Walder. “Rafael has good hands and a similar style as Paco and should fit the horse well.”