Jockey club, horsemen are at odds again


Horse Racing

January 20, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Representatives of the Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association plan on huddling in the days before the Maryland Racing Commission meeting this week to try to resolve disputes over stakes cuts and racing dates.

If they can't resolve their differences, which they've been having trouble doing lately, expect more fireworks at the commission's meeting Wednesday in Timonium.

Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the MJC, has proposed cutting $760,000 in stakes from the Pimlico spring meet, cuts necessitated by the loss last year of the $10 million purse supplement from the state.

The MJC, in conjunction with the horsemen, has cut more than $2 million from its stakes program as a cost of losing the grant.

The horsemen's association has urged Raffetto to defer for one year the $750,000 Pimlico Special and $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and spend that money on non-stakes purses. The Grade I stakes are two of Maryland's premier races.

"I can't do that with a Grade I race," Raffetto said. "It'd be embarrassing."

The dispute over racing dates involves, as usual, Colonial Downs in Virginia. The MJC wants to shut down for Virginia racing in June and July. The horsemen prefer July and August.

In a related development, Raffetto has rescheduled the stakes lineup for Preakness Day (May 18), making the biggest day in Maryland racing even bigger. Instead of six stakes, the day will feature eight, half of which will be for 3-year-olds (Preakness, Hirsch Jacobs, Sir Barton and Woodlawn).

Carulli gets odds job

The Maryland Jockey Club has hired Frank Carulli as racing analyst and handicapper, effective Jan. 30. Carulli, 39, racing analyst and publicity coordinator at Charles Town, will take over duties at Pimlico and Laurel Park now shared by three persons.

Clem Florio, track oddsmaker for eight years, has agreed to leave his job. Gina Rosenthal and Jeannine Edwards will no longer analyze races and conduct interviews on weekends. Edwards, however, will return for on-camera work Preakness week.

Carulli will be the first full-time racing analyst at Maryland's major thoroughbred tracks since Kim Goodwin left in 1997. He will set odds and make selections for the program, as well as analyze each race and conduct interviews after stakes races on in-house and simulcast TV.

"Frank is very innovative," said Mike Gathagan, director of broadcasting and racing communications for the MJC. "He's a high-energy guy who brings a lot of life and effort into what he does. I think it's going to be a major improvement on what we've been doing."

Awards program

North America's winningest jockey and trainer in 2001 will head the list of luminaries being honored Saturday at Laurel Park. Festivities will include a jockeys' autograph session, T-shirt giveaway and presentations to top jockeys and trainers in the winner's circle.

Scott Lake, who led trainers with 407 wins, and Ramon Dominguez, who led jockeys with 431 wins, will receive trophies. Dominguez also led jockeys in wins in Maryland. Dale Capuano, who led trainers in wins in Maryland, also will receive a trophy.

Tony Dutrow and John Scanlan will receive $2,500 each after tying for highest win percentage among Maryland trainers. Travis Dunkelberger earned $5,000 for leading Maryland jockeys in win percentage. He will be on vacation and miss the presentation.

In addition, the Maryland Jockey Club will honor the five local jockeys who finished in the top 10 among winning riders nationally (Dominguez No. 1, Dunkelberger No. 3, Jeremy Rose No. 4, Mario Pino No. 8 and Mark Johnston No. 9). Each jockey will receive a two-day weekend getaway.

The first 3,500 patrons will receive a long-sleeved T-shirt commemorating the five jockeys, and members of the local riding colony will sign autographs from 11:30 a.m. to noon on the first floor of the clubhouse.

Boost for Xtra Heat

During the lull between the announcing of the finalists for Eclipse awards Jan. 10 and the naming of the winners Feb. 18, the news from the Daily Racing Form is encouraging for Laurel-based Xtra Heat.

In the Form's "Fan's Choice Poll," more than 2,000 voters selected Xtra Heat not only as outstanding 3-year-old filly, but also as outstanding sprinter. In the 3-year-old filly division, Xtra Heat garnered 55 percent of the vote, compared to Exogenous's 14 percent and Flute's 13 percent.

In the sprint category, Xtra Heat surprisingly led Squirtle Squirt, 40 percent to 31. Squirtle Squirt, who defeated Xtra Heat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, was thought to be the leading contender for the Eclipse Award as top sprinter. ...

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum will receive the Special Eclipse Award for his accomplishments and contributions to racing and philanthropy.

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