The boy pictured below is Manuel. Manuel Ycaza. Some call him Ee-ka-za, as he should be called, and others who have trouble with the curious array of letters that form his name call him Yaka-zaka, and some even call him Nagasaki. But the people who crowd the rails at the race tracks call him Manny, and this he likes. Some say that he is a Panamanian and others say he is a Panamanian and this he does not care for at all. His fellow jockeys say he is a rough rider and the stewards say that he is just careless. To horsemen who have been around for a long time he is an Arcaro in embryo; to those who have been around for only a little while he is Jesse James.
But if you follow racing closely you know that Manuel has troubles most of the time. Dark troubles. There are times when his fellow jockeys want to fight him for infractions of the rules. They storm at him but he disarms them by saying, "When you speak to Ycaza, speak softly." He has been rightly accused of bumping, herding, pinching, swerving. But no one accuses Manuel of stealing.
Within the last two years he has brought into prominence the foul claim, and poor Manuel was forced to sit out 80 days of riding last year when found guilty of gross infractions which fell more into the category of gamesmanship than horsemanship.
Some of the nation's most storied stakes have been marred by foul claims. Six races with a value of $100,000 or over (the Washington, D.C. International, the Washington Park Futurity, the Champagne, the Campbell Memorial, the Widener Handicap and the Kentucky Derby), along with some other races rich in tradition (the McLennan and Camden Handicaps, the Wood, the Kentucky Oaks and the Laurel Maturity) have been struck by foul claims or inquiries in the last 16 months.
"It seems to be a case of baloney every Saturday," Jockey Dave Erb said the other afternoon in the riders' room at Belmont Park. Erb is one of our most respected riders. "It's beginning to look as if it isn't doing the business of racing any good to have these foul claims all the time. If a fellow has a legitimate claim, certainly he should make it; it's his duty to protect the betting public, the owner, the trainer and himself by claiming. I think there are too many little frivolous claims today that take up too much time."
Although there are no complete national statistics on fouls and inquiries (a foul comes about when a jockey alleges that he has been interfered with during the running of a race; an inquiry is an action initiated by the stewards to review the running of a race), Keene Daingerfield, one of our most prominent stewards, has kept a tabulation of his work over the past four years (see chart page 54).
The conclusions drawn are definite enough: "It does appear that the 'inquiry' (including both inquiries and objections) curve is rising perceptibly. I believe one contributing factor is that riders, horsemen and officials have all become increasingly 'film-conscious.' Certain riders are prone to claim foul with little or no provocation while others will seldom do so, even when they should. This is one of the imponderables involved in a steward's decision as to whether to post the inquiry or await a complaint from the jockey."
Just before the running of the Camden Handicap two weeks ago, Earl S. Potter, the steward representing the New Jersey Racing Commission, Daingerfield and George R. Palmer, stewards representing the track, discussed the foul and inquiry situation at some length. "Before a big race we go into the jockeys' room," Daingerfield said, "and get the boys together, reminding them that it is a big race and that we expect the race to be clean. Actually the only comment I can remember was in the Trenton Handicap two years ago when Bold Ruler, Gallant Man and Round Table were the only three starters. Earl went into the jockeys' room and said, 'All right, you guys, this is the first time in a long time that you haven't got us outnumbered.' "
New Jersey's stewards work with somewhat different equipment from that of many tracks today. Added to the film patrol are four patrol judges who give a running description of the race directly to the stewards by the use of an intercom system.
"Many people," says Earl Potter, "think that only a jockey may claim foul in a race, but the rules state that an owner and a trainer also have the right to claim foul. Many times a boy will not want to claim but the trainer will go down to the track and instruct the boy to claim foul rather than do it himself. On some occasions the trainers are watching the race in some of the worst positions. When a trainer tells a boy to claim, the boy's hands are tied. If he doesn't claim, then he probably won't be riding for that trainer any more."
George Edward Arcaro, a boy of some ability, stood the other afternoon, patting a towel against his very plain facial features. "There are numbers being taken down today that would not have been taken down before the films," said Arcaro. "The films have put the pressure directly on the stewards. Look at the Kentucky Derby. Just about everyone who saw those films agreed that the bumping between Tomy Lee and Sword Dancer was just about equal. Now, if we didn't have the films there could be no re-creation of the race. But when the films are around if a boy gets bumped up a little he's going to claim foul and take a shot at getting the race in the movies. Early last year around New York there was a rash of foul claims that didn't look too good. Some people think that a boy should have to post a bond when he claims foul and if the foul claim proves to be frivolous that the boy would have to forfeit the bond. Well, I'm against that. It defeats the whole purpose of the films and—think of this—if a young rider claims foul and he is fined for being frivolous, well, you can bet he isn't going to claim again, even with a serious reason."
Cal Rainey, the steward representing The Jockey Club at New York's race tracks, thinks that today's methods of detecting fouls are so complete that if a boy feels he was bothered he should claim. "Many boys," says Rainey, "are often wrongly accused by the public of making frivolous claims while in the jockey's own mind he thought his claim was legitimate. In the old days perhaps they were more tolerant of fouls but today racing is more technical.
"In New York," Rainey continues, "we try to treat every race the same way, whether it's a $100,000 stake or a $3,500 claiming race. If you do this, then you have a group of jockeys who know they will be getting fair treatment all the time. We do not brief the riders before a big race. Most of the riders in New York are here all the time and know the standards are high. Sometimes when we go over the films of a race the following day, with the riders present, a foul will be very obvious to the other riders and the boy who has committed it will feel pretty silly, because every rider in the room will just sit silently. In the olden days some of the boys reached out and pushed another horse away; they'd grab the saddles and saddle cloths of the boys they were riding against. Some of them were so used to doing it that they didn't even realize that they were doing it.
"Today," Rainey says, "we are more mechanized. The whole trend of racing is toward mechanization. It's good and it protects the public."
The public, however, seldom concerns itself with mechanization outside of the tote operation. In last year's Flamingo and this year's Widener there were heated demonstrations by bettors when foul claims were lodged. The delay at the 1958 International was almost farcical. When the public came away from the track it knew only that Tudor Era was disqualified and Sailor's Guide's number had been posted. This year's Derby, although the film patrol shows an equal amount of contact between Tomy Lee and Sword Dancer, still mystified those at the race track. Perhaps in an era of mechanization, with closed-circuit television sets available at many of our tracks, the stewards should run the film patrol so that the public could see it and be readily aware of why a claim was lodged and why a horse was disqualified. It would bring back to the races, day after day, a more enlightened, educated public, which is, after all, what the race tracks are hoping to do.
Meanwhile, more fouls are being punished than ever before. It is doubtful that jockeys are more prone to commit fouls than they used to be. Therefore—and this is the important point—more fouls are being discovered which used to go unnoticed. The next step—once the system of surveillance has been streamlined—is to reduce the number of fouls actually committed.
A VIEW FROM THE STEWARDS' STAND