Jockey Elliott gets green light to ride `Smarty' in Preakness

Guilty plea isn't disclosed on Md. application, either, but he's declared `good to go'

Horse Racing

May 09, 2004|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Stewart Elliott, who provided false information when applying for a license to ride in Maryland, has been cleared to ride Smarty Jones in the Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

After riding Smarty Jones to victory May 1 in the Kentucky Derby, it was discovered that Elliott, 39, did not disclose on his Kentucky application that he had pleaded guilty to aggravated assault after a fight in New Jersey in 2001.

Maryland officials then discovered he had not disclosed the information on his license to ride in this state, either.

Kentucky racing officials said that the false application wouldn't affect the outcome of the Kentucky Derby but that it could result in a fine or suspension for Elliott. The Churchill Downs stewards will file a report to the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, and the authority will decide how to proceed, said Billy Reed, spokesman for the authority.

In Maryland, the Pimlico stewards, who oversee racing, discussed the situation with Elliott by telephone Friday and requested that he file an amended application, which he did, officials said. Investigators for the Maryland Racing Commission also looked into the matter.

"We may talk to Stewart when he's here this week," said John J. Burke III, one of three Pimlico stewards, "but as far as we're concerned, he's good to go."

Burke said he and fellow stewards Bill Passmore and Phil Grove concluded that Elliott's infraction was not serious enough to warrant further action. Burke noted that Elliott's arrest did not occur at the track or have anything to do with racing.

"We're very cognizant of the integrity of racing," Burke said. "Had this been a major offense or a detriment to racing, then we would have handled the situation in a much more serious manner."

Elliott pleaded guilty in June 2001 to aggravated assault after a fight in which he hit a man with a beer bottle, pool cue and wooden stool, according to the grand-jury indictment. Elliott was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay $13,900 in medical bills.

He declined to discuss the matter yesterday at Philadelphia Park, where he watched a public gallop by Smarty Jones in front of a jubilant crowd estimated at 5,000. Elliott didn't ride Smarty Jones in the workout. Pete Van Trump, the colt's regular exercise rider, did.

"Everybody looks for something bad to say," Elliott said. "I'm not looking at my past. I'm looking at my future. I really have no comment."

Burke, the Pimlico steward, said falsified applications turn up every now and then, from grooms and hot walkers as well as jockeys, trainers and owners. The usual procedure is to call the applicant before the stewards and discuss the matter. Sometimes, but not always, a fine of $25 is levied, Burke said.

Occasionally, when the applicant is not from this area, Burke said, the matter will be dealt with by telephone. He acknowledged that the stewards tried to deal with Elliott's case "as expeditiously as possible" because it involved the Preakness.

Alan Foreman, a Maryland lawyer involved in racing cases since 1983, said he had no problem with the stewards' ultimate decision, but he questioned their dealing with this matter by telephone.

"That's not how they handle other applications," Foreman said. "They may have created a Pandora's box, because other people might now expect the same treatment."

Elliott rides primarily at Philadelphia Park, Smarty Jones' home track. Samuel A. Boulmetis Jr., senior steward at the track, said he and his fellow stewards informally discussed the Elliott matter yesterday. Boulmetis said racing officials would check Elliott's application in Pennsylvania when state offices reopen tomorrow.

129th Preakness Stakes

Probable entries

Horse Trainer Last race

Smarty Jones John Servis 1st, Kentucky Derby

Lion Heart Patrick Biancone 2nd, Kentucky Derby

Imperialism Kristin Mulhall 3rd, Kentucky Derby

The Cliff's Edge Nick Zito 5th, Kentucky Derby

Borrego Beau Greely 10th, Kentucky Derby

Eddington Mark Hennig 3rd, Wood Memorial Stakes

Rock Hard Ten Jason Orman 3rd, Santa Anita Derby

Little Matth Man Martin Ciresa 7th, Wood Memorial Stakes

Water Cannon Linda Albert 1st, Federico Tesio Stakes

Possible entries

Bornwithit Bob Baffert 1st, allowance

Preachinatthebar Bob Baffert 7th, Blue Grass Stakes

Sir Shackleton Nick Zito 1st, Derby Trial

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