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For all those horses who find running a bore about the time they get to the top of the stretch, one in the field often surprises its owner with a victory in a big race. At Florida's Gulfstream Park, winning owners got a second surprise this season when they discovered they also had won the privilege of paying for their own trophies.
When Honest Pleasure won the Florida Derby, owner Bert Firestone received $91,440—and a debit for $2,149.75 for the trophy. Hail The Pirates won the Gulfstream Park Handicap and $73,560—minus the silverware dun of $1,552. One irate trainer grumped that he would much prefer the money to the trophy.
Doug Donn, director of racing, insisted that it was all a result of bookkeeping error. What was supposed to have been done, he said, was to take $20 or so from the nominating fees paid by the owners of each horse named for a stakes race and pool it to buy the trophy. But in view of the bad press the whole deal got—and on the surface it did smack of chipping—Donn said the track would pay for all the trophies itself, about $8,000 worth this year.
Mistake or not, it clearly was an idea left standing backward in the starting gate.
CALLING THE SHOTS
Officials, referees and umpires at sports events are increasingly subjected to a full load of abuse. Sometimes, despite their whimpering, because they deserve it. Still, nowhere has the situation been more acrimonious than in tennis, where the 11 linesmen and an umpire work most championship events at rates ranging from $0 to $2 a day. The players tend to believe they are overpaid, considering the quality of their work.
A veteran umpire in the Washington, D.C. area, Norman Fitz, has been the subject of player harassment, including, he says, an obscene gesture this spring by Eddie Dibbs. "So long as the Nastases and Connorses continue to be top drawing cards and get away with ridiculing officials," says Fitz, "the other players feel a good imitation may work miracles."
Fitz thinks the solution is threefold: make all officials pass the new qualification test that was drawn up two months ago; reduce the number of officials from 12 to four or five professionals earning at least $20,000 each a year ( World Team Tennis this year uses five officials per match at $25 to $40 per person); and raise the necessary funds by taking the dollars out of the promoter's pocket or, more likely, out of the prize money.
It's that third point that is sending players' rackets into the air in rage. Still, Fitz' idea is an innovative smash that not one player in 100 will admit hits the line. Which it does.