Laurel Management Upset With Jockeys' Decision Not to Ride
by Tom Keyser
Date Posted: 1/11/2004 12:14:45 PM
Last Updated: 1/12/2004 3:20:45 PM

The decision by Laurel Park jockeys not to ride yesterday [Jan. 10], forcing cancellation of the nine-race card, incensed track managers who denounced the move and said racing should have taken place.

"I think it's a disservice to horsemen and to fans to cancel today," fumed Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "It's something that shouldn't have happened. It was the wrong call."

Because Aqueduct and Philadelphia Park canceled afternoon racing, Laurel's races would have attracted stronger betting than usual. That particularly galled Raffetto, who oversees a program that lost 11 days of racing to inclement weather last year.

The jockeys informed management shortly after 10 a.m. that they had decided not to ride. Rick Wilson, a veteran jockey, said it was a combination of cold weather and unsafe track conditions. He said the track was so powdery that horses would have had trouble "getting hold of it."

"It was a close call," Wilson said. "The jockeys just didn't feel safe."

John Passero, MJC senior vice president in charge of the racing surface, disputed Wilson's claim that the track wasn't safe.

"That's baloney," Passero said. "This track's in excellent condition."

Larry Saumell, regional manager of The Jockeys' Guild, was driving to New York when the dispute erupted. He said he was turning around and returning to Maryland to meet today [Jan. 11] with management and jockeys to review standards for canceling races.

Temperatures at Laurel reached 19 degrees in the afternoon.

The $75,000 Native Dancer Stakes, the Laurel feature, will not be rescheduled, Raffetto said. One of the eight horses entered ran Friday night at Charles Town, and four entered races this week at Laurel.

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