Tom Jicha

Tom Jicha grew up in New York City and worked with John Pricci at the short-lived revival of the New York Daily Mirror. Tom moved to Miami in 1972 for a position in the sports department at the now defunct Miami News.

Tom became the TV critic in 1980 and moved to the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1988. All the while he has kept his hand in sports, including horse racing. He has covered two Super Bowls, a World Series and the Breeders’ Cup at Gulfstream Park.

He's been the Sun Sentinel’s horse racing writer since 2007 as a staff member, and continues to this day as a free-lancer.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Guillot needs to be punished for frivolous claim

Investigators have totally rejected Eric Guillot's claim that Luis Saez used an electrical device to urge Will Take Charge to victory in the Travers. Saez's exoneration should not be the end of this sorry saga. Guillot should face substantial sanctions for lodging a frivolous claim of foul, just as a jockey would be.

MIAMI, Oct. 9, 2013--The total exoneration of Luis Saez should not end the sorry saga of Eric Guillot’s outrageous allegation that the jockey used a buzzer to urge Will Take Charge to victory in the Travers. Guillot needs to be punished.

Investigators for the state of New York took a month to find the irresponsible charge leveled by the trainer of Travers runnerup Moreno wholly unsubstantiated. Anyone who examined the video of the race—this included Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey-- could have come to the same conclusion in five minutes. You have to wonder if the state took so long merely to look like it was putting more effort into the investigation than was necessary.

Jockeys, who lodge frivolous claims of foul, are subject to fines or suspensions. The same should apply to Guillot. He brought dishonor to the sport and tarnished the name of a rising star in the jockey ranks. There even would have been criminal implications for Saez. This is another example of sensational charges producing over-sized headlines and the retraction being buried.

Saez has the option of a civil suit for the damage done to him. Jose Santos reportedly won a substantial settlement from the Miami Herald, which printed a story that he might have used an electrical device aboard Funny Cide in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. (A confidentiality clause was part of the settlement.) That charge, too, was found to be baseless.

NYRA should also extract a pound of flesh from Guillot, who, unlike a newspaper, makes his living from the sport. A hefty fine, a lengthy suspension or a refusal to grant him stalls in the future should be among the options.

In addition to being wrong, Guillot made his allegations in a disrespectful manner. A college degree or even a GED diploma is not a requirement to become a trainer or lodge a claim of foul. But the gravity of what Guillot alleged should have demanded more care be put into his claim, even if it required outside assistance. There was, after all, $400,000 at stake, the difference between first and second in the $1 million Travers. A lawyer could have done what was necessary in a couple of billable hours.

Guillot’s claim was comically inept in punctuation, spelling and tense. He didn’t even get the name of the horse he was claiming against right. If his beef was written on a cocktail napkin in the wee hours after a night of commiserating, it couldn’t have been more inappropriate.

“I Eric Guillot am filing a complaint for our lost in the race called the Traver’s (sic) at Saratoga on Aug 24th 2013—My horse Moreno was beat a nose on the wire by horse named Take Charge Indy (actually Will Take Charge)—After suffering biggest defeat in our career—my brother Chip who was here cooking Cajun food had recorded races on NBC line for family once he got home and watched replay on NBC on big plasma TV he said it was obvious the kid had trouble celebrating cuss of black device in right hand switching too left hand and tucking under left shoulder under saddle pad! We feel this has crossed every integrity line of horse racing and would like this investigated an resolved!”

Breeders' Cup needs to OK Lasix this year

John Pricci asked a question in a recent column that should not have to be raised. Will the 2-year-olds in this season’s Breeders’ Cup show their best form without Lasix?

That this is an issue is a product of pure stubbornness on the part of Breeders’ Cup. The ban on Lasix was supposed to be in effect for all Breeders’ Cup races in 2013 after only being the rule for juvenile races a year ago.

It was a disaster, leading to a 20 percent drop in entries for the 2-year-old races, a corresponding decline in wagering and the eventual abandonment of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, which drew only five horses and was won by a maiden, who hasn’t been heard from since.

In a rare display of unity, national horsemen’s organizations told the Breeders’ Cup, starting in 2014, no Lasix, no simulcasting. Whether horsemen should have this omnipotent veto power over the engine that now drives the sport is an issue for another day. They do and they used it.

Breeders’ Cup could have stood its ground this year. But fearful of slim fields and handle throughout the two-day festival, they went for a face-saving compromise. The ban would remain only in the 2-year-old races.

So we have a situation where owners, trainers and horseplayers will have to guess how the juveniles will perform in a situation that most, if not all, have not faced before and will never face again.

This makes no sense other than as a balm to Breeders’ Cup’s pride. Theirs was a noble effort but it failed. Breeders’ Cup should acknowledge this and lift the ban before Nov. 1, so that juveniles can race under the conditions that will prevail for the rest of their careers and that will be the rule in all other Breeders’ Cup races.

Written by Tom Jicha

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