It was going to be a quite a good story, with Robert “Cowboy” Jones becoming the first known jockey to win a race in seven different decades at the ripe old age of 70.
He got a leg up from trainer Steve Fridley in the second race at Fairmount Park on July 23, the jockey riding even money favorite My Kentucky Breeze in a $5,000 claiming race with a $5,400 purse.
Jones has not ridden a winner since 2004, coming into the race having ridden just 52 races in the past eight years.
My Kentucky Breeze was put in the garden spot heading down the backstretch and as they were reaching the far turn Jones was able to split two very polite rivals to take the lead. Jockey John Lejeune, aboard Magnificent Mandy, who was up on the pace started to drop back, and second choice Ola D. started to rally under jockey Uriel Lopez after getting off a beat slow.
Ola D. came around the far turn and momentum started taking the filly to the lead while drifting out badly under Lopez, who sat motionless, either unable or unwilling to try to straighten out the filly.
Her momentum was too much and she took over the lead, while Lejeune aboard the early pacesetter Magnificent Mandy barely moved a muscle in the stretch as his mount started to back up.
Jones meanwhile was the only of the trio of jockeys that looked the least bit interested in winning the race, going to the whip, but Ola D. went on to win by 1 ¾ lengths.
Even in a different language, this race smells:
I have watched tens of thousands of races over the past 30+ years, and have rarely seen a more curious stretch run than this one.
Unfortunately for Jones, the filly Ola D. just had too much, despite the non-effort of Lopez, who did not urge his mount at all in the stretch.
After the race Jones told the local Fox affiliate just how nice the other jockeys were in the race.
“I would expect to see every one of them in the front row at choir practice on Sunday at church,” Jones stated after the race “They’re so polite. They’ll shut somebody off or bump somebody, come back and apologize. When it used to come back and I got bumped, I came back swinging!”
The Illinois state stewards held a hearing and slapped Lejeune with a 60-day suspension for “failure to persevere and put forth his best effort to achieve a maximum placing.”
The stewards also stated that there was no conspiracy among jockeys or trainers according to the Daily Racing Form.
Did the other jockeys have a stake in the outcome? Probably not, but it certainly looked as if they did what they could to try and get Jones the historic victory.
What these jockeys seem to have forgotten is that the betting public wager on these races. There was over $70,000 in the betting pools, and in my opinion, they attempted to manipulate the finish of a wagering event.
It certainly looks as if Lopez aboard the winner did what he could to lose the race, but the filly was just too good.
Lejeune should not have been the only jockey to get suspended, and the punishment was not nearly severe enough. All of the jockeys from the race should have been brought in and interviewed extensively. There should have been more fines, suspensions, and possibly criminal charges if any of the other jockeys were also involved.
The betting public has to be protected, and in this case they blatantly were not.
As for Jones, it is time to hang up his tack. I have not seen a jockey look worse on a horse in decades.
I have not wagered on a race from Fairmount Park in a long time, and had no betting interest in this race.
However, I am outraged first that the jockeys showed so little interest in winning the race, and that the stewards could watch the replay of this race and conclude there was no conspiracy to let Jones win.
Are the Illinois stewards really that stupid, or do they just think that we are that stupid?
It’s a slap in the face to all horseplayers, while those involved either got a slap on the wrist or no penalty at all.
And the industry wonders why the sport is in decline.
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