Horsemen upset when jockeys halt card after 2 races

January 10, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Are the jockeys at Laurel Race Course a bunch of wimps, or were they justified in canceling the card after two races yesterday?

The riders complained that they were being pelted by clods of ice and dirt that had formed on the track and that it was simply too cold to ride.

Ice patches had started to form during the last couple of races on Saturday's card. The track was continuously harrowed through the night, a number of horses worked out over the strip yesterday morning and the jockeys told management they would attempt to ride. Later, they said they would decide race-by-race.

Controversy began when the jockeys made their decision to cancel after the second race. After seeking the stewards' approval, a group of six or seven trainers confronted the riders in the jockeys room and tried to persuade them to compete.

"What we have is a prima donna situation," said trainer Jerry Robb, who missed running a 4-year-old colt, Soviet Ally, in the third race and a 3-year-old filly, Half Out East, in the canceled Sham Say Stakes.

Nine of the 11 scheduled live races, with purses totaling $101,000, were called off, and the Sham Say might not be rescheduled. Management continued the multiple-signal simulcasts from Gulfstream, Philadelphia and Santa Anita parks, and most fans stayed for the televised action. But the cancellation not only cost management its percentage of the live race betting proceeds, but also lost wages paid to about 60 extra employees who are hired at overtime rates to handle the weekend crowd.

"Nine out of 10 times, when the jocks want to cancel, we all agree," Robb said. "But not [yesterday]. The clumps were breaking up, and there was no danger to the horses or the riders. Both the horsemen and management wanted to run. Think what it cost all of us to cancel nine races. Our help also has to work out in the cold. The owners have to pay van costs and veterinarian expenses for their horses to be treated with Lasix. Why should we be left in the hands of the jockeys?"

According to Maryland Racing Commission procedure, when any one of the three groups -- jockeys, horsemen or management -- wants to cancel because of unsafe conditions, a card can be scrapped.

But after yesterday's experience, many horsemen want a new policy: Jockeys who want to ride should be allowed to compete, and jockeys who don't want to ride should leave.

Racing officials John Mooney Jr. and Lenny Hale are meeting at 10 a.m. at Laurel tomorrow to discuss the situation with representatives of the Jockeys' Guild and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

Jimmy Edwards, the local Jockeys' Guild field manager, said: "The races were also called off in this area at Philadelphia Park and Penn National late in the card. So obviously there was a bad weather situation. There was extreme cold, and being hit by one of those clods is a good way to lose your eye. I think the jockeys at Laurel should be given a lot of credit. They tried to ride and rode two races before they called it quits.

"Let's face it. Winter is not the ideal time for racing, and every once in awhile, Mother Nature is going to get the best of you."

A total of $137,702 was bet on the two Laurel live races. Another $1.1 million was bet on the simulcasts, including about $736,000 on the Gulfstream Park races, a record this winter for the Florida meet in Maryland.

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