"By whom?" the attorney for the board asked.
"By the jockeys."
"Give me the name of the jockeys."
"Cordero, No. 1," said Cotter.
Cordero immediately denied the charges in the press, claiming that "Cotter's comments are so stupid that I have no answer. Look at my record. I made over $200,000 each of the last three years. I'm the second-leading money-winner for the last four years. My heart is clean."
In his appearance before the Racing and Wagering Board, Cotter also testified that Mike Hole, a jockey whose death by asphyxiation on April 22, 1976 was reported a suicide by Long Island parkway police, had been offered $5,000 to pull one of Cotter's horses at Saratoga during the 1974 meeting. Ciulla says he made the offer through one of his intermediaries, first proposing $5,000 and then $10,000, but Hole turned him down. Cotter, learning of the bribe attempt from Hole, reported it to Warren Mehrtens, a steward, and the information was passed on to the State Racing and Wagering Board, the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau and then the FBI, according to a member of the Racing and Wagering Board.
William Christmas, a Maryland trainer who knew Hole well, says that Hole had spoken of the bribe attempt to him, as well, but Christmas would not elaborate. And a still active jockey, a close friend of Hole's who asked that his name be withheld, also confirmed the attempt.
Cotter then testified that "top riders" were involved in "cutting things up themselves..." adding that he had kept a file on several of these races. He now says he no longer has the file. As provocative as Cotter's testimony was, no action was taken because proof was so elusive. But presumably Ciulla's crew was hard at work offering bribes, and now the Justice Department has Ciulla.
The FBI has a number of reports of meetings between Ciulla and Cordero. And Ciulla says he will testify before a federal grand jury in New York that on several occasions, through intermediaries, he paid Cordero, Velasquez, Baeza, Venezia, Vasquez and Belmonte between $3,000 and $6,000 a race to hold horses. Ciulla also says there were times the price went up to $8,000 for key horses.
The FBI also has phone and surveillance records and recordings of Ciulla's meetings with Errico, who is no longer riding, that were made at motels near Belmont Park. Errico, whom Ciulla describes as his main intermediary with jockeys in New York, would meet Ciulla for the list of horses he wanted held. Then, Ciulla says, Errico would meet with the riders at the morning workout, or at a restaurant, or even in the jockeys' room, to bargain the amount of the bribes. In addition to Cordero, Ciulla says, the jockeys on whom he could most rely were Velasquez, Venezia, Vasquez and Baeza, although he says Baeza lost his nerve twice when he felt the stewards at Belmont Park were watching him in the stretch.