Jockey Club resolving ambulance controversy

On Horse Racing

August 15, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The ambulance problem of such concern to riders and trainers is being resolved, and a new system will be in place by Sept. 1, say John Passero and Joe De Francis.

After meetings between Maryland Jockey Club officials and Dr. James A. D'Orta, who took over the service in April 1998, "a whole new system of checks and balances" is being implemented, says Passero, the MJC official in charge of the backstretch.

De Francis, president and CEO of the Maryland Jockey Club, says the system will result in "much better management and oversight on the part of IMC as well as MJC."

IMC is International Medical Consultants, D'Orta's company. Trainers and jockeys' representatives criticized it harshly after medical workers arrived late, took breaks during training, and slept in the ambulances.

De Francis declined to reveal specifics of the new system.

But Richard Hoffberger, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, says he is confident it will resolve the issue now that Passero has taken a more active role.

A political feast

The Maryland thoroughbred horsemen's and breeders' political action committee will hold its second annual Barbecue Blast tomorrow at the Timonium fairgrounds.

The feast begins at 6: 30 p.m. Tickets at the door cost $60 for one and $50 for two or more.

Proceeds will be distributed among candidates for state office who support the horse racing industry.

Yearlings bring $39 million

After two exceptionally strong yearling sales in Kentucky, the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale concluded Thursday with 149 yearlings sold for $38,957,000.

The average of $261,456 was up 23.7 percent from last year.

The sales topper was a Mr. Prospector colt out the Cox's Ridge mare Eaves.

Opening the bidding at $2 million, the brothers Kevin and J.B. McKathan, one talking by cell phone to trainer Bob Baffert and the other to the owner Aaron Jones, bought the colt for $3 million. That was the highest price at Saratoga since 1984, when a Northern Dancer colt sold for $4.6 million.

Among those sold last week were eight Maryland-bred and four Maryland-sired yearlings.

Richard Golden sold a Maryland-bred daughter of Hennessy out of Chilly Hostess for $440,000. A Maryland-bred daughter of Quiet American out of Silver Mink brought $340,000. And a Pennsylvania-bred colt by Polish Numbers out of Sue Warner sold for $600,000.

The fall yearling sale at Timonium, usually a two-day affair, has been extended one day because of the large number of entrants. The sale will be Oct. 4, 5 and 6.

Watch those towels

In a recent issue of the West Coast edition of the Daily Racing Form, a letter De Francis wrote June 3 to the California-based Thoroughbred Hot Line Radio Show was reprinted.

The letter followed an interview the show conducted with De Francis after the Preakness.

The show's hosts pointed out that tracks use a standardized coloring scheme for saddle towels in most races but not in major stakes, making it difficult for bettors watching on TV to identify horses.

The comment made sense to De Francis, who decided that all stakes at Pimlico and Laurel Park, including the Preakness and Pimlico Special, would use the color saddle towels. He outlined that in the letter, which the radio show then displayed in an advertisement in the Form.

Passing notes

Secret Firm, who won two graded-stakes last year at Saratoga, has been transported from Laurel Park to Saratoga for a planned start in the Forego Handicap on Labor Day, Saratoga's closing day. Storm Punch may join him in the race. They're both trained by H. Graham Motion.

Countess Diana returned to the races last weekend with a smashing 5 3/4-length victory in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race at Saratoga.

The National Turf Writers Association will honor Beverly and Bob Lewis, Jennie Rees, and the late Kent Hollingsworth at its annual awards dinner Nov. 3, three days before the Breeders' Cup at Gulfstream Park.

Hollingsworth, who died May 26, was editor of The Blood-Horse magazine from 1963 to 1987 and author of the provocative weekly column, "What's Going On Here." His representatives will receive the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing.

The Lewises have raced such horses as Serena's Song, Charismatic and Silver Charm. Ever gracious and gregarious, they will receive the Mr. Fitz Award for typifying the spirit of horse racing.

Rees, the two-time Eclipse-award winning reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, will receive the Walter Haight Award for career excellence in turf writing.

Eric Blind, who has worked at Maryland tracks since 1962, mainly as a starter and assistant starter but now in the jockey's room, plans to retire at the end of the Timonium meet.

The Towson resident, who plans to travel in retirement, took over the starter's job when his uncle, Eddie Blind, retired.

Americans bet $54.3 billion in 1998, according to the annual study of gambling by International Game and Business Wagering magazine.

That was $14 billion more than was spent on all other forms of entertainment combined, such as movies, sports events, cruise ships and theme parks. It was also 6.6 percent more than was spent the year before. However, only casinos and Internet gambling registered sizable increases.

Gambling on horse racing rose 1.8 percent. Nevada and New Jersey table games decreased 2 percent, and bookmaking decreased 25.6 percent.

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