I have been a fan of racing for a few moons now… Well, maybe a little longer than that. I have known many riders over the years, and the highs and lows they have faced. Like every athlete, they could be playing for a championship team this season, and traded the next. Sadly, when they call it a sport, others call it business.
At some smaller to mid-level tracks, I have known some riders who have been taken off of mounts and replaced with other riders. Would you dump a small timer to have a big name on the back of your charge? There is so much money on the line, and there is a reason the big names are just that. The mistakes are fewer, and they have been there before. Now, I ask again, there is a $500,000 purse at your track, and it is your call. What would you do?
Eugene Sipus some years back had toiled with success at Beulah, River, and Turfway. He finally rode a fine runner by the name of Kingpost. Gene was a cool customer, and solid jockey. He had the makings, but needed the mount. When he won the Jim Beam at Turfway Park, it looked like his Derby mount had arrived. After all, he was a price, and Gene held off the fast closing Brian’s Time at the wire. But when the decision to run at CD arrived, he was pulled off and replaced. Why? Was it business, or was it he didn’t have the tools for the sport? It took Gene many years to shake the cobwebs, and finally he retired and went on to other ventures in racing. But, I am sure he doesn’t go a week without speaking his name, and every time he watches the race, I am sure it enters his mind.
This is just one case where I knew the rider a bit, and since then it has a happened a million times. Is it bad luck, business, or lack of confidence? Any one you choose, it still stings like a bitch…..
Robby Albarado was replaced this past Saturday aboard Animal Kingdom. When he got taken off of his mounts on Oaks day, I felt it would be a matter of time before he gets pulled for the Derby. I really thought Team Pletcher-Repole would scratch Uncle Mo because they are a top-notch outfit that makes few mistakes. When he wasn’t 100%, the decision was made. It was hard I am sure, but this is why they have the degree of success to their credit.
So, back to the business. Robby A was hurt from his injury early in the week, and Johnny Velasquez is now open without a mount. A man who makes few mistakes, and a trainer that only brings them at top condition in Graham Motion. Factor owner Barry Irwin into the mix, and a decision comes into play when your rider takes off his mounts the day before. What would you do? Would you pull him, or stick with a rider with tons of heart and ability, and not ready due to injury? Tough call…..
After the jury has entered back into the courtroom. I think the verdict to change riders made sense. If Robby A wasn’t ready, and Johnny V was available, the business side of our sport kicks in… You have to do what is right for the race. But, when that 3-yr-old runner came flying down the lane into history, someone was going to get their feelings hurt. It would be easy to say that Robby will have other mounts, but as Johnny V can attest to, at 0-11 coming into the race, it can be tough to find that winners circle.
The connections I am sure will do something for Robby as far as a financial gesture, but, like the many before him, he will be haunted for quite awhile. I would have done the same if in their shoes; would you? Nothing against Albarado, but getting to the Derby is hard enough without being at your best. Only time will tell, but I think that Robby A will come back with a fury. It probably won’t be this meet at CD, but wait until summer at Saratoga or Monmouth. He is a professional who knows the tough calls of the business, and sacrifices of our sport. Mend well, Robby…. It is only a matter of time.