Advice or not, Jockeys ride to their own drummer

December 05, 2000 8:30 AM
by

share

International news item: "The Victorian Jockey’s Association, the governing body for riders in that Australian state, has denied a petition by owner John Thompson that jockeys’ instructions be tape-recorded or written down.

"Thompson and trainer George Hanlon alleged that rider Jim Cassidy’s defiance of their pre-race instructions caused their horse, Caulfield Cup winner Diatribe, to lose the Melbourne Cup.

A hearing later cleared Cassidy of any wrongdoing for his ride. Association president Neville Wilson told the Australian Broadcasting Company that Thompson’s request was ridiculous because a race is unpredictable, and said the association had cleared Cassidy of any misconduct."

Such a petition in the United States would have as much chance of flying as Al Gore’s goal of winning Florida’s electoral votes via recount.

"You’re not running an auto race," says trainer Vladimir Cerin, "And even then, you don’t know how the rest of the field is going to react in a given race. A trainer gives instructions based on what the race looks like on paper. You just have to leave strategy up to the jockey."

"You can give general instructions; tell him, ‘Look, this horse won’t go inside. Please don’t go inside no matter what.’ Then the rider shouldn’t go inside. But other than that, things happen in a race that you can never predict. (In the $500,000 Hollywood Derby) I told Laffit (Pincay, Jr.) to get to the rail as quickly as possible (aboard Designed for Luck, who broke from the No. 11 post position in a field of 12), sit about three or four lengths off the lead, and just save ground on the rail, because our only chance was to sneak through on the rail and win. Well, he’s in the 11-hole. How the hell is he going to get to the rail? So he sat close to contention, three-wide, and rode a perfect race. The horse drifted out a little bit, but other than that, it was perfect."

But not perfect enough. Designed for Luck, off at 58-1, was disqualified from first to fifth, costing Cerin’s owners $265,000 (first place was worth $275,000; fifth, $10,000) and resulting in a five-day suspension for Pincay.

"Before David Flores won (last Wednesday’s first race) on Fleet Friend, I asked him, ‘Do I need to give you instructions for this race?’ David just laughed, because he knows the horse is pure speed. David knows what he is going to do and what the horse is going to do. Now, if he had taken the horse to last, I would have asked him why he did that. But maybe the horse didn’t feel good that day. It’s impossible to take that horse to last, but if Flores did something that was completely out of character, then a trainer could have some questions.

"Other than that, most of these jockeys have been riding forever and ever. At times, it’s insulting to give them instructions. We should just leave it to their judgment. They ride better than I ride."

Wesley Ward, presently a trainer, was the nation’s leading apprentice rider in 1984 and winner of the Eclipse Award that year. He’s been on both sides of the fence.

"Ridiculous," Ward said of any proposal to tape pre-race instructions for riders.

"I never really listened to them anyway. I’d have had about a thousand lawsuits against me had that been the case. I’ve been riding Laffit since I started training some 10 years ago. I never once gave him instructions; just wished him good luck because I knew he was going to do what he wanted anyway and he’d already mapped out his plan going into the race."

"But on closing day at Santa Anita last meet, I had Men’s Exclusive (a confirmed front-runner), and I kind of wanted to take the horse back that day. I talked to Laffit in the morning about it and again before I gave him a leg up on the horse. He broke from the gate in front, and that was it. The jocks are going to do whatever they want."

John Dolan, an unsung but successful trainer on the Southern California trail, tells this tale. "I was running Norcielo and I told Kent (Desormeaux) to take him from off the pace," recalled Dolan. "First step out of the gate, he was on the lead and he went wire-to-wire. He got the highest Beyer number he ever got in his life. But it was an off track and it was sealed, so sometimes jockeys have to make adjustments."

Antley remembered -- There was no in-between with Chris Antley’s emotions. They ranged from ebullient to reticent.

"It seems like he had some sort of problem with somebody," said agent Ron Anderson, who once handled business for the former jockey, found dead of homicide at age 34 in his Pasadena home late Saturday night (Dec. 2). Police said Antley died from "severe trauma to the head," the victim of an apparent beating.

Throughout his 17-year career, during which he won 3,480 races and two Kentucky Derbies, Antley battled substance abuse, depression and weight problems.

On Sunday morning, Pasadena police arrested 24-year-old Timothy Wyman Tyler Jr. on three outstanding warrants relating to drugs and driving under the influence. Police said Tyler was Antley’s friend. Neighbors said he was a frequent visitor to Antley’s home, purchased last year for $1.2 million. Police said, however, that Tyler was not a suspect in Antley’s death.

Anderson, a Las Vegas native who now represents Jerry Bailey, had heard Antley "was hanging around with some shady people. Obviously he had problems, but he was a good-hearted kid who was kind of a lost soul. At one point, I loved him like a son."

Antley won the 1991 Kentucky Derby aboard Strike the Gold and in 1999 on Charismatic, making a comeback after shedding some 30 pounds -- from 147 pounds to his riding weight of 117. Antley’s mounts earned more than $92 million. He last rode on March 19 of this year before weight problems again forced him to stop riding.

Antley also received notices for his "Antman Report," a daily publication that provided opinions, trends and tips on the stock market. He reportedly made more than $1 million as an Internet day trader in 1998.

Jockey Gary Stevens, a close friend of Antley’s, said he visited with him about three weeks ago. "He was depressed," Stevens said Sunday at a Hollywood Park press conference. "I had the feeling when I left that he was not going to be around much longer."

 

THE HOMESTRETCH: Two weeks into the Golden Gate meeting, perennial Bay Area training leader Jerry Hollendorfer had 23 wins from 52 starts, with four seconds, eight thirds and earnings of $357,295. Runner-up Greg Gilchrist had four wins from 18 starters, with two seconds, four thirds and earnings of $79,450 . . . Comment from a Hollywood Park usher on another Wednesday when the on-track crowd was just 4,395: "It will be life and death to stay awake today." Wonder what he had to say two days later, on a Friday afternoon, when the on-track attendance was a lowly 4,118 . . . With most horsemen saving their stock for Santa Anita’s big winter meet that begins on Dec. 26, is it any wonder that on last Friday’s Hollywood Park card, only 54 horses were entered, an average of 6.75 horses per race. Christmas Eve racing, anyone?