09/13/2009 11:26PM

Shaken and Stirred

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There must be something wrong with me. This should not be a problem. I do not know why it sticks in my craw. Maybe someone can tell me why. Here goes:

The St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster on Saturday was a grand event. I never thought the day would come that I would be able to kick back with my orange juice and enjoy a British classic in robe and slippers on the old video before commencing the yardwork. Thank you TVG and HRTV. (Of course, I never thought I would not be able to watch the Woodward Stakes on one of the major networks, but that's another channel.) As for the significance of the St. Leger on these shores, bear in mind Conduit won last year's running and came right back to take the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.

After a mile, six furlongs and 132 yards the St. Leger came down to a head bob won by Mastery over Kite Wood. The fact that both colts are owned by Godolphin occurred to me only briefly in the heat of the battle. That sort of thing tends to happen often enough, and it's no big deal, given the depth of the Godolphin talent pool. Mastery was 14-1 and Kite Wood was the 9-4 favorite, which for some may be problematic, since the coupling or uncoupling of horses owned and trained by the same people is a sticky issue without simple resolve.

And then it happened. Galloping out after the hard-fought race, which apparently lasted so long that a final time was never posted (evidence there will always be an England), the two Godolphin jockeys reached out to share a congratulatory handshake. If it didn't look so bad it would have been touching.

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Good sportsmanship should never be discouraged. No doubt there was honest, adrenalin-fueled sentiment behind the gesture. Frankie Dettori, a five-time St. Leger winner who rode Kite Wood, is not exactly a shy violet about post-race displays, while Ted Durcan, aboard Mastery, was winning his first St. Leger. And good for him. In fact, it was Dettori who extended his hand, and Durcan could hardly let it hang. But a more subtle gesture might have been appropriate between teammates, at least in consideration of those folks who took the 9-4 on the beaten half.

"I think it would definitely raise eyebrows here," said Scott Chaney, who will be in the stewards stand at Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup. "There was a case at Del Mar, when cousins Michael and Tyler Baze ran one-two and high-fived each other after the wire. Their horses were not stablemates--they were just happy. But I think any displays like that between riders are inappropriate. If nothing else, the perception is bad. Certainly, we'd call the riders up and express our displeasure."

For those who think this is nitpicking, it probably is. It would take a pair of certified jokers to congratulate each other in full view after pulling off a betting coup. Jockeys live and die by each other's abilities. It is hard to fathom a sport that requires such dangerous, close-order competition among athletes who are also likely to be very good friends. But appearances in a sanctioned, pari-mutuel sport are as important as stark reality. I asked a retired Hall of Fame jockey to appraise my concerns, and she said that, quite simply, sometimes out there in the heat of the moment you forget there's anyone watching. Still, as Jose Santos and Pat Day discovered in the wake of the 2003 Kentucky Derby, the microscope never sleeps, and a simple horseback handshake pulling up after an intense, widely gambled event can be taken for anything but.

Donny Beisbol More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the feedback, Jay! Re: Rosario, I would regularly see jockey's agents betting 3-digit sums on horses NOT ridden by their clients...in a race where they rode the odds-on favorite. Such is racing?
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
Anyone who reads Dan Illman's blog with any alacrity will know that I have singled out Rosario in the past (as well as questioning the apparent COI with VicS), specifically for rides where he appeared to show zero interest in winning. It has, in fact, happened so frequently with his mounts that I began to question my own ability to see these things, and I may have attributed some of it to my dislike for synthetics. Rosario is one of the reasons I completely stopped playing SoCal. That is the absolute truth. Quite honestly, I'm feeling a bit vindicated right now. A sad day for racing, however. And for that, I'm sorry. If I have anything to say about it, maybe this will be the catalyst for meaningful dialogue on an unpleasant subject. I may drive from Oakland for the hearing.
eeebayou More than 1 year ago
Trouble in So. Cal? OTB's are beginning to close. Here's the link to the death of Santa Barbara: http://www.independent.com/news/2009/sep/17/why-satellite-wagering-failed/
Jay H More than 1 year ago
eeebayou -- Yes, the story is very troubling. We'll see if the complaint proves valid. Certainly, the appearance of conflict of interest must be addressed. That's one hearing I plan to attend.
Jay H More than 1 year ago
eeebayou -- The Santa Barbara site was not the finest example of an off-track facility. Visit the satellite at the National Orange Show Fairgrounds in San Berdoo to see how it's done right.
Jay H More than 1 year ago
John S -- I heard violins.
eeebayou More than 1 year ago
Great article by Jay Privman regarding Rosario accused of stiffing horses. I'm sure that John Glenney will stay in Kentucky after this. Also, how about the conflict of interest that Stauffer is accused of? Hollywood Park employee as track announcer, lucrative gig as a jock's agent and now triple-dipping as a bloodstock agent? Stiff live horses of infrequent clients and then try to buy them!! Isn't this a great sport!!
Bernard Downes More than 1 year ago
Jay, A final word on this subject if I may. Durcan on Ashram (8/1) has just beaten Dettori on Huntdown (3/1), in another Godolphin one two. This time in a £22,000 Listed race at Newbury. No sign of a post race handshake. The jockeys either read your piece, or perhaps they just felt it was a much more low key race, thus not deserving of public congratulations. Regards - Bernard
John S. More than 1 year ago
Jay, I wonder how you felt when Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson kissed at the scorers table in the NBA finals while waiting to enter the game?
Donny Beisbol More than 1 year ago
Jay, what does Julie think about this? Not that she was the most popular rider in the jocks' room (winners seldom are!)