MY, MY MARYLAND
It is customary for Thoroughbred racing commissions to back up the disciplinary decisions of their track stewards, since commissioners are usually political appointees and don't pretend to have the stewards' intimate knowledge of the sport. Last week the Maryland Racing Commission violated this tradition in spectacular fashion. Manuel Ycaza had been fined $200 and grounded 10 racing days for what the Pimlico stewards considered a frivolous claim of foul and unfair riding tactics in the Preakness (SI, May 28). Track films showed that Ycaza, leaning out of his saddle like a polo player as he rode Ridan, had elbowed John Rotz, aboard Greek Money, as the horses came to the finish. The stewards recommended that the commission add 20 days to Ycaza's suspension, a penalty beyond their own authority.
But the commission didn't add, it subtracted. After hearing Ycaza's defense (he was losing his balance, not leaning) and listening to winner Rotz's show of charity ("Ycaza's elbow was never in my chest"), it commuted sentence to 10 calendar days—thus permitting Ycaza to ride in the $100,000-added Metropolitan Handicap on Wednesday at Aqueduct.
Left dangling all over the place were the loose ends. Ycaza got a half-hour screening of the race films, the commission said, but Rotz saw only still pictures ("It is possible," Rotz said later, "I was hit without being aware. Once I was hit in the face by a whip and didn't know it until I saw the films.") Commission Chairman R. Bruce Livie said it was questionable whether the interplay took place before the finish, but in any event Ycaza was not riding dirty. Then in the next breath he added, "If this happened at the eighth pole, we would have given him a year!" The stewards said the foul occurred at least 50 feet before the finish.
But isn't dirty riding the same, no matter where it occurs? And, if the commission thought Ycaza had done nothing, why didn't they throw out the entire sentence? Furthermore, what are track films and photographs good for if you don't believe what they show? What we'd like to know, Mr. Livie, is just what is going on in Maryland, anyhow?
The whole idea was categorically cataclysmic. The city council of Kansas City, Mo., in catty-cornered, catchpenny scheming, had put a $3 annual tax on house cats. The caterwauling commenced straight off. Why, the cat lovers cried, people would turn thousands of cats out into the streets and fields and leave them to die. Other cats, spared that, would certainly hang themselves (in protest? by accident?) on the necessary license-tag collars, or succumb to nervous collapse. And what about fanciers such as the lady who has 18 cats? That's $54 a year, and for what? To let the rats, in logical concatenation, take over the place?
What to do? How about, for a start, chasing a few hundred cats into the mayor's office, a militant man suggested. How about taking the cat-o'-nine-tails to the whole council, said another. How about us just forgetting all about it, said the councilmen, catapulting themselves into a repeal action.
It was a spangly night at Toots Shor's, and Floyd Patterson was the essence of it. His image fluttered from a portrait over the dais where he sat, and the lineup behind the prime ribs included Dr. Ralph Bunche of the U.N., Lauren Bacall of the movies, Jackie Robinson of second base and literary accomplishment. Tribute was paid Floyd's great heart, his sociological reformation, his gentle manner, his new book (see page 31), and he smiled his little-boy smile of thanks, and it was all very nice. Just prior to the aperitif, however, a handful of guests listened in an upstairs room as Jersey Joe Walcott volunteered a private testimonial: " Patterson," said ex-champ Jersey Joe, "would have beaten me. He would have beaten Ezzard Charles. And Marciano and Louis, too, unless they both were in the ring with him at the same time. I fought them all and I know. Someday you'll recognize what a great champion Patterson is." Agree or not, nobody said anything nicer all evening.
HYBRID FLY HIGH