The plot, as the old pot-boilers had it, thickens.
Namely: five days left in the racing season at Laurel, and there is still no agreement on 2012 dates between the tracks and the horsemen. One person tells me that we’ll end up with dates that look more or less the same as this year’s; another tells me we’ll end up with pretty much squat. At least there’s perfect confusion.
Meanwhile, a good — or maybe not — story continues this afternoon at the central Maryland oval as Rapid Redux goes for his 19 win of the year and 21st in a row. Though 19 has been widely considered a one-year record, new research indicates that other horses have exceeded that number. Still, in an era where the average horse straggles to the starting gate just a half-dozen times annually, 19 consecutive wins would be quite a feat.
Unless, of course, the game had been rigged. Which some believe was the case in at least one prior race. The stewards at Charles Town investigated RR’s October 14 race — which became his 18th consecutive victory — after fevered pre-race, backstretch whispering indicated that two Scooter Davis-trained horses — Disco Indy and Valid Venture — would scratch from the race. ‘Lo and behold, Davis’ van broke down, the two horses — presumed to be the major threats to the streak — scratched, and RR cruised to an easy win at 2-5. Certainly, the story — read it here — is a little smoky, but the stewards found no fire.
In today’s sixth, Rapid Redux should gun from the gate and figures to be the controlling speed here. Still, Awesome Rhythm, First Nite, and Zosogood all exit races in which they led at every call. If any — or all — of them commit to being in front early, RR may get a test late when No Brakes and Shamroge — both dropping from allowance company — come rolling along. Barring, of course, late scratches.
Finally, in the unexpected good news category, is this: at its November meeting, the Racing Commission heard testimony that Maryland licensed owners, who are required to pay an assessment to the state’s Jockey Injury Compensation Fund, would have to pony up around $600 each for 2012 — after having paid just $50 for 2011. A change in insurers, a new policy, etc. This news caused extensive weeping and gnashing of teeth, not least from me; $600 is real money. So it was a mild relief to open the license renewal package and find the assessment to be just $100. No explanation as to what happened, but it’s one gift horse whose mouth will likely remained unlooked at.