Is there a policy change concerning stewards' inquiries?
Since Jan. 15, when chief steward Clinton P. Pitts Jr. said the Maryland stewards would order placing judges to flash the numbers of horses involved in inquiries, there has not been one instance in which the new policy was instituted.
After Thursday's sixth race, the stewards posted an inquiry concerning the stretch run, then failed to inform the placing judges -- and the public -- of the horses involved. Only several minutes later, when a jockey lodged an objection, did numbers on the tote board begin to flash -- and then, fans were forced to guess that the inquiry and objection were related. In at least one other instance, a similar scenario has resulted.
Pitts originally said that whenever the stewards held an inquiry, the public would be informed of the horses involved. Such is the custom in virtually all other racing jurisdictions; it is done largely as a courtesy to the public, which often would be left in the dark without it.
On Jan. 15, an even-money favorite won a race at Laurel Race Course by 11 lengths, and then the stewards called for an inquiry. Several minutes later, the winning filly was disqualified for a foul at the start.
As usual, fans were annoyed, even outraged. Not only had their horse been disqualified, but they also had no way of knowing she was even involved in the inquiry.
If announcement had been made that she was the focus of the inquiry, and her number had been flashed, at least fans would have known doom was forthcoming. Pitts recognized the fans' dilemma and said the stewards would amend the policy. But though there have been ample opportunities, it hasn't yet been put into practice.
A French connection will be in evidence at Maryland tracks this spring. Steve Moyer, who worked for three racing seasons in France for the famed trainer Maurice Zilber, has six horses in training at the Bowie training center.
Moyer, 24, made his training debut Thursday at Laurel when Mr. Copperfield finished fifth in a field of six.
"By summer, I could be up to 15," Moyer said. "I've got a couple of well-bred 3-year-olds in training now -- a filly by Vaguely Noble and one by Alleged. I've got 2-year-olds by Halo and Cox's Ridge on the way.
"I got started by Mr. Zilber setting me up with a couple of his clients, and some of the horses might show races in France on their form."
Moyer, a graduate of Annapolis High, is the son of Roger "Pip" Moyer, former Annapolis mayor. C'est bon, n'est-ce pas?
The San Rafael Stakes -- first of three major California prep races for the Kentucky Derby -- is being run today at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.
In an interesting switch, Chris McCarron will ride Dinard instead of Excavate, Charlie Whittingham's top hope for a third Derby winner.
Another Whittingham trainee, Compelling Sound, will run in a 1 1/16-mile allowance on the same card. Whittingham was going to run Excavate in the allowance, and McCarron could have ridden both Excavate and Dinard. Instead, McCarron committed early to Dinard, and Jose Santos picked up the mount on Excavate.
The final two California preps are the San Felipe (March 17) and Santa Anita Derby (April 6).
King Leatherbury is the perennial leading trainer in Maryland, but Dale Capuano could finally be the one to top him in winners in a calendar year. Capuano has surged to a 28-11 lead over Leatherbury after the first two months of 1991.
There are several factors which give Capuano a chance to "dethrone" the King: his fast start; his stable size is approaching that of Leatherbury's; his win percentage is usually in the 20 percent range; and his hassles with medication violations -- he served some 65 days in suspensions last year -- are apparently behind him.
Ironically, it was a recent 15-day suspension for Leatherbury that helped Capuano get away to an even bigger lead.
Remington Park in Oklahoma City recently staged a program using a tag team of announcers: Tom Durkin (New York Racing Association tracks), Phil Georgeff (Chicago-area tracks), Michael Wrona (Hollywood Park) and its own race-caller, Jim Byars.
Terrific idea. But Remington could have simply called in Larry Collmus, the former Marylander who calls races in Northern California, or Larry Lederman, who announces in New Jersey.
Both Larrys have been known to call races in medleys -- they imitate a variety of other announcers in the span of one race.
Collmus' mimicry of Marshall Cassidy, Trevor Denman and Costy Caras are as down-pat as it gets -- especially his "Eet ees now p-o-o-o-st time," just as Caras, of Charles Town, cries it.