Laurel jockeys decide not to ride, irking MJC

Weather, bad track cancel card

officials criticize call

Horse Racing

January 11, 2004|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The decision by Laurel Park jockeys not to ride yesterday, forcing cancellation of the nine-race card, incensed track managers who denounced the move and said racing should have taken place.

"I think it's a disservice to horsemen and to fans to cancel today," fumed Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "It's something that shouldn't have happened. It was the wrong call."

Because Aqueduct in New York and Philadelphia Park canceled afternoon racing, Laurel's races would have attracted stronger betting than usual. That particularly galled Raffetto, who oversees a program that lost 11 days of racing to bad weather last year.

The jockeys informed management shortly after 10 a.m. that they had decided not to ride. Rick Wilson, a veteran jockey, said it was a combination of cold weather and unsafe track conditions.

He said it was so cold that riders would have put themselves and their horses at risk. The cold would have numbed jockeys' hands and feet, compromising their ability to control their mounts, he said.

Also, Wilson said, the track was so powdery that horses would have had trouble "getting hold of it."

"It was a close call," Wilson said. "The jockeys just didn't feel safe."

John Passero, MJC senior vice president in charge of the racing surface, disputed Wilson's claim that the track wasn't safe.

"That's baloney," Passero said. "This track's in excellent condition."

Larry Saumell, regional manager of The Jockeys' Guild, said he'd meet today with track management and jockeys to review standards for canceling races.

Temperatures at Laurel hit 19 degrees in the afternoon.

The $75,000 Native Dancer Stakes, the Laurel feature, will not be rescheduled, Raffetto said. One of the eight horses entered ran Friday night at Charles Town, and four entered races this week at Laurel.

NOTES: The MJC will honor five racing leaders of 2003 in a ceremony Saturday at Laurel Park: Ramon Dominguez, winningest jockey in Maryland and the country; Michael Gill, winningest owner in Maryland and the country; Scott Lake, winningest trainer in the country; Dale Capuano, winningest trainer in Maryland, and Tony Dutrow, Maryland's leading trainer in winning percentage. ...

Three New England jockeys and 10 trainers have relocated to Maryland for the winter. One is Joe Hampshire, the top rider in New England the past six years. He is four wins shy of 300.

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