When this horseplayer goes to the betting window or wagers online, I don’t ask for much. I just want to know the horse has not been drugged and the jockey will give a 100% effort to win the race.
There seems far too many times after the race I can’t be sure I got what I asked for.
The latest case is Kent Desormeaux’s ride in the fourth race at Del Mar on Saturday. The Hall of Fame rider was aboard What a View, the 9-5 betting favorite. The gelding set the early fractions and in deep stretch looked like the winner.
Jockey Brice Blanc had other ideas and came late with 42-1 longshot Professor Burns, who got up at the wire to win by a nose.
The problem was it appeared Desormeaux let up just before the wire, and to most watching the race, it looked as if his actions cost his mount the win.
Among those was Jay Privman of The Daily Racing Form, who took to Twitter:
That was appalling. If jocks can be fined for trying to hard with a whip, surely they can be sanctioned for that https://t.co/whEkjzDbEX
— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) November 7, 2015
Privman then took a nice shot at Desormeaux:
Great irony of last result is winner is co-owned by Eddie Delahoussaye, who never mailed it in and always treated bettors with respect. — Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) November 7, 2015
Desormeaux replied via Twitter with this:
I’m sorry for being expected to be perfect. Sometimes i zig not zag. Know I was all out. Trying to convince another try from mt
— Kent DesOrmeaux (@DesormeauxKent) November 9, 2015
This ignorant Tweet obviously was directed at Privman:
Writers should not be allowed to gamble. — Kent DesOrmeaux (@DesormeauxKent) November 9, 2015
Later in the day according to the San Diego Tribune Desormeaux noted about his ride, “I’ve got nothing to say . . . Wait, hey I rode for my life. That’s all I’ve got to say about it.”
I’ve watched tens of thousands of races, and “I rode for my life” certainly would not be how I would describe the ride from Desormeux, who has developed a reputation of easing up in deep stretch on horses, costing possibly thousands of horseplayers exactas, trifectas, and superfectas over the years.
This despite the fact the jockey has won 5,700 races including the Kentucky Derby three times and entering the Hall of Fame in 2004.
The stewards called in Desormeaux to review the video, with Kim Sawyer and Tom Ward voting for no penalty for the ride, while Scott Chaney voted to penalize the jockey.
“We had Kent in, went over the video extensively, and did not feel there was enough evidence on the video” to penalize, said Ward via The Daily Racing Form.
I got to watch Desormeaux first hand when he dominated racing in Maryland in the late 80’s. From 1987 to 1989 he won over 1500 races. He rode five or six live horses daily and seemed to move up every one of his mounts several lengths. He rode some winners for my partnership group at Laurel Park and Pimlico. He was one of the best and most dominant riders I have ever seen on any racing circuit.
However, the past five years he has acknowledged having an alcohol problem and has not won 100 races in a year since 2010.
He has failed a breathalyzer test at the track not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR TIMES.
The first was in 2010 at Woodbine, then at Belmont Park in May of 2012, again at Del Mar in June of 2014 and yet again at Del Mar this July. He is currently being tested each day before the races at Del Mar.
The 2012 positive test cost him a Preakness mount. He was scheduled to ride Dullahan in the Belmont Stakes that year for trainer Dale Romans. When asked at the time Romans said his issues were affecting his riding. “Yes, very much,” Romans was quoted in the New York Daily News. “And I’ve told him this. You can tell, some days he’s really into it and other days his head is just not into the game.”
The industry cannot understand why horseplayers are betting less and less money each year. Yet, there is no protection for horseplayers, with trainers getting slapped on the wrist for cheating and jockeys having almost no accountability for their rides.
It’s incredibly frustrating for a horseplayer to see a jockey stop riding their horse, whether it is for the win or for fourth or fifth place.
In my opinion, the level of riding in the U.S. is the worst I have seen in my 30+ years of betting the horses. Racing in New York is supposed to be a major circuit, but the level of riding is not. There is not a day that goes by that horseplayers are not frustrated by stupid mistakes jockeys make, tactical errors, or strangling speed horses.
Even track handicapper Andy Serling regularly questions jockeys’ decision making on Twitter, almost daily. Heck, he draws his paycheck from the New York Racing Association.
Desormeaux has shown up for work FOUR times with alcohol in his system. Including all pools on Saturday there was over $1 million wagered, and horseplayers using the 9-5 favorite got screwed. With absolutely no punishment to Desormeaux except for insults tossed his way on social media.
Horseplayers are going to continue to look for other forms of gambling, or wager far less if there is not some accountability for rides like those that we saw at Del Mar on Saturday.
In 2004 over $15 billion was wagered on the ponies. That number was just $10.5 billion in 2014. There are too many other reasons to count as to why betting handle continues to decline, but it is only going to get worse if horseplayers have no confidence in the people running the sport.
And decisions like the one made by the California stewards are a reminder that I have ZERO confidence.
Maybe I should take Desormeaux’s advice and stop betting.