Maryland tracks reopen starting gate for rehabbed Franklin

Spectacular Bid jockey gets year license as exercise rider

Horse Racing

April 13, 2005|By Ed Waldman | Ed Waldman,SUN STAFF

OXON HILL -- Ron Franklin is returning to Maryland racing.

Five years after barring him from setting foot in any racetrack in the state because of continued substance abuse, the Maryland Racing Commission yesterday granted Franklin a one-year license as an exercise rider.

And though that's a long way from being the toast of Baltimore -- and the country -- after riding Spectacular Bid to victories in the 1979 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, it's an equally long way from being out of racing.

"This is good news for me," said Franklin, 45, who grew up in Dundalk. "This is the best news I've had in a long time."

During the hearing, which lasted about 30 minutes and took place immediately after the commission's regular monthly meeting at Rosecroft Raceway, Franklin's attorney asked the commissioners to give Franklin a conditional jockey's license for one year and to subject him to drug testing on a monthly basis.

Alan Foreman, the attorney, gave the commission a letter from Grover "Bud" Delp, Spectacular Bid's trainer and the man who gave Franklin his first racetrack job in 1976. In the letter, Delp said he was prepared to use Franklin as a jockey again.

"This commission allows licensees who have committed crimes against the industry, against racing, to be reinstated," Foreman told the commissioners. "Mr. Franklin's crimes were committed against himself.

"There is no question in my mind that he has been rehabilitated," said Foreman, who said he had declined to represent Franklin at the commission hearing five years ago when he was banned. "He has been clean for five years."

John B. Franzone, who ran the hearing, announced the decision after the commissioners debated the issue in private for about five minutes.

"Basically we want to see how you do," he told Franklin. "After the one-year period, we would like you to come back before the commission and apply for your jockey's license."

Franzone said Franklin would be subject to random drug tests.

"We're going to test you like crazy," he said. "And if we get you, the chances of you getting your license back are slim to none."

That pleased Franklin, who has been working horses at the Folsom Training Center in Louisiana for the past four months. Because of his Maryland suspension, Franklin has been unable to work anywhere in the country in the racing industry.

"I'm glad I made it over this hump," he said.

Said Foreman: "I think the commission did the right thing. He has to demonstrate that he is recovered. And this gives him the opportunity to prove what he's been saying."

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