The board of directors of the Fair Grounds racetrack has barred Bob Roesler, executive sports editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, from the press box. The reason, according to track attorney Louis Roussel III, is that Roesler's reporting on the New Orleans track is "not in the best interests of racing."
Roesler's reporting has focused on Dr. Alex Harthill, a Louisville-based veterinarian who is regarded by many as the best in the country but whose career has often been marked by controversy. In 1968 Harthill gained national notoriety when postrace analysis revealed that Dancer's Image won the Kentucky Derby with phenylbutazone, a pain-killer then barred at Churchill Downs, in his system. Although Harthill, the vet for Dancer's Image, denied having done anything wrong, the Kentucky State Racing Commission later fined him $500 for doctoring the feed of Dancer's Image with aspirin. Harthill said he had done so to check the honesty of the colt's trainer. In 1972 Churchill Downs expelled Harthill from the barn where he maintained an office and lab.
Since 1979 Harthill has served as a $50,000-a-year consultant to the president of the Fair Grounds, Joseph P. Dorignac Jr. Ostensibly, Harthill's main job is to use his contacts to persuade leading horsemen to race at the track. In a number of stories, Roesler has indicated that Harthill's role at the Fair Grounds is larger than his job title implies. "At one time," Roesler wrote, "he [Harthill] posted himself at the claiming box to serve as protector of Dorignac's horses. If someone put in a claim for one of Dorignac's horses, Harthill could drop one in, too. That way, there was a chance of protecting the boss' interests." Roesler questioned the propriety of doing this, and he also questioned "why a track-appointed official and commission-approved steward was working out horses for Harthill in the morning and serving in the stewards' stand in the afternoon."
Roesler also noted that although Harthill isn't licensed to practice in Louisiana—an attempt to license him by means of a rider to a bill in the state legislature failed after Harthill flunked the state veterinary exam—he still treats horses at the Fair Grounds. Even track attorney Roussel admits this, but the story that got Roesler barred from the press box involved Beau Rit, a horse trained by Roussel, owned by Roussel's wife and treated by Harthill. Roesler wrote in The Times-Picayune that after Beau Rit had won a $100,000 race, the state testing laboratory reported a "positive chemical analysis for the presence of a prohibited drug in the official sample" of the winner. The drug was identified as oxyphenbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug.
Roussel promptly attacked the laboratory's competence "to ensure my good name." The track stewards then held a quick meeting—with no lab representative present—and let Roussel off by means of an astonishing ruling: that the lab "does not have the authority, nor the power, nor is it in their contract with the state to call a test a positive."
For reporting on the Beau Rit case, Roesler got the boot from the press box. Roussel said Roesler's stories were "inadequate, inaccurate and didn't present a true presentation of facts." Says Roesler, "If Roussel can point out and prove any inaccuracies, I'll gladly print a retraction. In the meantime, I'll catch the races from the grandstand."
EAT, DRINK AND BE LIMBER
There's a restaurant in Chicago called Jock's, which shouldn't be at all confused with any eating places you might know called Jacques. Situated in the Lakeshore Centre health club, Jock's serves a variety of so-called health-food dishes (e.g., yogurt and fruit topped with a honey-and-poppyseed dressing) and also, as Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene puts it, "things that actually sound like you might want to eat them," in which category he places Jock's All Star burger. What distinguishes Jock's, though, are the cryptic notations accompanying each menu item. For example, under chicken salad, the menu reads, "R-21, J-21, S-29, T-41."
It seems that the management commissioned nutritionist Jacqueline Marcus to figure out how many minutes of exercise would be needed to burn off the calories in each of the restaurant's dishes. Greene quotes Marcus as explaining, "The idea of the menu at Jock's is one of checks and balances. You can eat whatever you like on the menu—but then we make you conscious of how you can get rid of the calories." The aforementioned entry applies to a typical woman diner and means that after having devoured her chicken salad, she would be well advised to repair to the adjacent exercise facilities to either play racquetball or jog for 21 minutes, swim for 29 minutes or play tennis for 41 minutes.