Vic Stauffer figures he’s called about 40,000 races since he began his career at defunct Detroit Race Course in 1985.
In all that time, he’s never uttered the phrase, "What a great ride by Joel Rosario!"
When Stauffer starts his gig as track announcer at Hollywood Park on Wednesday, odds are he won’t dispense one complimentary blurb about the 24-year-old jockey during the 64-day meet that ends July 19. If he did, it would be a conflict of interest, and that’s a no-no, because Stauffer also is the agent for Mr. Rosario.
That means most mornings, Stauffer pounds the backstretch hawking his jock’s wares to trainers in an effort to get him on their best horses. Come post time, Stauffer is high atop the grandstand in his private perch, ready to call the day’s races, in which Rosario rides.
There was protocol that had to be addressed before the big and burly Stauffer was given carte blanche to call races and also represent Rosario, which he has done since last Nov. 10.
"When I asked my bosses at Hollywood Park if I could do it, they did a real due diligence," Stauffer said. "They discussed it amongst themselves to see if there was a potential conflict, or if they might have to deal with other people thinking it was a potential conflict.
"Then they asked the CHRB (California Horse Racing Board), and then they asked the stewards. After doing that due diligence, they decided that it wasn’t a conflict. The one thing that they did say, which they didn’t have to say, was, ‘We don’t want to hear anybody say to us that it sounds like you’re promoting your rider.’
"So I not only didn’t do that, but I took it to the other degree. For example, Joel won five races one day at Hollywood Park, and I never mentioned it. Jack Liebeau (Hollywood Park president) came to me after the fourth win, and said, ‘You know, if he wins his fifth, you can say something.’ I just decided against it.
"That’s the one thing I’m very cognizant of, and so, Joel could win them all, and I would underplay it. I just think that’s the safest way."
Understandably, there were some ruffled feathers among Stauffer’s agenting peers when he took Rosario’s book, but all seems smooth at the moment.
"The track makes a big deal about not carrying two licenses," said Richie Silverstein, agent for Martin Pedroza and Alonso Quinonez. "Agents can’t own horses, etc., etc., etc. At the same time, owners and trainers hold two licenses. Jockey agents who work in mutuels carry two licenses, and Vic Stauffer is an employee of Hollywood Park.
"It hasn’t turned out to be a conflict of interest yet and I don’t think he’s abused it. Some guys would use that as an absolute platform to just promote their rider. He hasn’t done that."
Rosario, a native of the Dominican Republic who is the epitome of an "overnight sensation," won 83 races at the recent Santa Anita meet, finishing a solid third in the standings behind alpha jocks Rafael Bejarano and Garrett Gomez. His success has been achieved despite a deficiency in English, which he has worked hard to overcome.
"Our goal was to win more races than he won last meet at Santa Anita, and he won 49 last year (when he was represented by agent Vince DeGregory), Stauffer said. "Through the first 74 days, he won 74 races. Before, everyone always talked about the big two, Gomez and Bejarano, and now they talk about the big three, so that’s just an unqualified success."
Still, that didn’t stop Jerry Hollendorfer from booting Rosario from Kentucky Derby contender Chocolate Candy in the Run for the Roses on May 2, after Rosario rode the son of Candy Ride to a second-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby behind Pioneerof the Nile. Hollendorfer named Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith for the Derby, which Smith won in 2005 on 50-1 shot Giacomo. Stauffer has no qualms about Hollendorfer’s call.
"It’s the right decision," Stauffer said. "My jock has never won a Grade I race and has never ridden in the Kentucky Derby. His time will come."
Bob Baffert has been confident about Pioneerof the Nile’s chances to win the Kentucky Derby since before the colt rallied to defeat I Want Revenge and Chocolate Candy in the CashCall Futurity last Dec. 20. "Every time I went to the Derby and had a good feeling about my horse, I won," Baffert said. "I’ve always had a good feeling about Pioneerof the Nile. This horse has it." Another plus: Except for Pioneerof the Nile, top Derby contenders from California I Want Revenge, Chocolate Candy and Papa Clem all successfully converted their synthetic form to traditional dirt. Points out synthetic proponent Richard Mandella: "Two months ago, people were saying that synthetic was ruining these horses."
• My Derby superfecta: Quality Road, Pioneerof the Nile, I Want Revenge and Friesan Fire.
• Does Bruce Springsteen ever change his clothes?
• And this graphic on CNN last Tuesday: "Happening Now – Awaiting Obama’s New Dog." Edward R. Murrow must be turning over in his grave.