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Friday, September 23, 2005

Say It Ain't So, Braulio

- Bennett Liebman has an interesting tidbit about Braulio Baeza on his fabulous Albany Law School Racing and Wagering site. As you may know, Baeza is one of the two NYRA employees, or rather, ex-employees, indicted in the weight-gate case, and was an accomplished jockey himself, having ridden champs and great horses such as Dr. Fager, Buckpasser, Arts and Letters, and, most memorably to me, having come upon the scene relatively late in his career, Wajima. The following is taken from his website:

In Summer of 1976, at the height of the Saratoga meet, Braulio woke one morning to discover that after having jogged in his plastic suit and reduced the night before, he still had 8 pounds to lose before the start of the race day. He called the Clerk of Scales and told him that he was going to ride no longer.

Thus ended the riding career of one of the finest jockeys who ever lived. He was pure poetry on a horse: efficient, elegant and always spectacularly in rhythm with the horse. He won a total of 3140 races in the United States and another 873 in his native Panama for a total of 4013 lifetime wins.
This is particularly interesting in light of some comments I read from jockey Earlie Fires today in The Saratogian:
'I have seen those things happen at other tracks,' Fires said. 'The weights for jockeys are too low. They need to be raised, and everybody knows it.'

Fires, 58, recalled a similar incident that occurred many years ago at Washington Park in Illinois where several racing officials were fired for their part in a jockey weight scandal.
'Braulio's a super nice guy,' he said. 'If there was ever a jockey that would try and help other riders, it's him. I've never seen a guy that looked more drained from reducing himself all day than him. He would get off a horse and have to lie down in between races.'
The charges against Baeza are, of course, just allegations at this point, but one can perhaps start to see a picture of a man who went through hell to maintain his riding weight and who just may have had sympathy for his younger colleagues going through the same struggle. While the indictment includes allegations that the riders gave tips to the clerks, it doesn’t seem as if this was a scheme which would make Baeza rich.

I imagine that if the Jockey Guild wasn’t bogged down with responding to a subpoena from a Congressional committee in response to their inadequte response to prior requests for documents, we would see one of their typically bizarre statements blaming the whole scandal on the culture of racing that requires that jockeys ride as light as they do, and that the minimum weight should be raised. And while their point would be well-taken, I’m sure their statement would be filled with their usual flourishes and poor grammar.

As weird as the Guild’s behavior has been under the Wayne Gertmanian regime, their apparent refusal (inability?) to satisfy the demands of Rep. Ed Whitfield, who is leading an investigation into the lapsing of the Guild’s catastrophic insurance for on-track accidents, is perhaps their strangest conduct of all. Or perhaps it’s their most telling conduct of all, because just maybe the requested documents would confirm the worst suspicions about why the policy lapsed, and as to exactly what services are being provided by Gertmanian and his Matrix Capital Associates consulting firm in exchange for their healthy salary and fees, respectively.
"It was pretty clear to us that they were not really being responsive in providing us with documents that we had requested," Whitfield said yesterday.

"We think it's essential we get a complete analysis of how the money's coming, how it's being spent," he said. [Lexington Herald-Leader]
The subpoena names Gertmanian personally, and he is required to produce the documents by October 3 at 5 PM.

- Prospects for a compelling edition of the Jockey Club Gold Cup increased with the addition of Hollywood Cup winner Lava Man. Trainer Doug O'Neill had planeed to keep his charge out west, but has joined the party in search of a large enough chunk of the $1 million purse to subsidize the $360,000 needed to supplement the horse to the Breeders Cup Classic. In addition to Lava Man, three year olds Flower Alley and Roman Ruler will take on older horses Borrego and Imperialism. NYRA could really use a good day on October 1 to get a little momentum going for the Breeders Cup. The fall meeting has thus far been an aesthetic and attendance disaster, and I can’t imagine that the over/under for the Breeders Cup day crowd could be much more than around 30,000-35,000 at this point. Or is that too high?


allison said...

why is the insurance company investigating accidents on the horse track?

Brian said...

Why do you say the fall meeting has been a The fall meeting has thus far been an attendance disaster? I understand your opinion but every year the Belmont attendance is a disaster considering the great racing that goes on there. Why should this year be any different? (The Breeders' Cup in October does not bring people to the track in September.)

alan said...

Brian - You are correct about the attendance sucking at Belmont every year, but it seems to me that it's set even more depressingly low standards when you see a crowd of 7000 for the Woodward on a perfect weather day.

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