They couldn’t fix it for the Cowboy

Cowboy Jones - ready to race

Cowboy Jones - ready to race

A race at Fairmount Park in Illinois could have made history last week, but has ended up with race officials launching an investigation as to whether there was an attempt to fix the race. For once, those questions have nothing to do with betting.

Imagine, if you can, Frankie Dettori still riding in 28 years time. He’ll be 70 then, the same age as Robert “Cowboy” Jones, the jockey who was aiming to ride into the record books by becoming the first ever to ride a winner in seven different decades. He remembered his first winner, in 1959, as if it had happened yesterday. “Everything was a one, it was the first race of the meeting, the horse had the one hole (draw), the horse was a favorite, it was the first time I had raced on a recognized race track and he won by a length,” he recalled.

Last week, with more than 2,300 winners under his belt, it seemed as if everyone was rooting for him to clock up his place in the history books. He was leading on My Kentucky Breeze, pursued, none too hotly, by Uriel Lopez on Ola D and John Lejeune on Magnificent Mandy. Jones appeared there for the taking, but neither of the other jockeys was doing much to secure victory, with Ola D taken very wide on the final bend and MM only pushed along.

Ola D did get her head in front in the end, but the state stewards are investigating whether Lopez and Lejeune did their best to secure a win. You might argue that Lopez clearly did, as he won the race, but it certainly makes for an interesting view. Go to the replays section at Fairmountpark.com (23 July, race 2).

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After the race Jones seemed as surprised as everyone else at how easy a time he had been given. He joked, “I would expect to see every one of them in the front row at choir practice on Sunday at church. They’re so polite. They’ll shut somebody off or bump somebody, come back and apologize. When it used to come back and I got bumped, I came back swinging.”

Owner of My Kentucky Breeze Ben Wessels held out the possibility of another go at the record for Jones. He said, “We had a lot of fun today. We’re a little disappointed but racing is not for the pessimistic. It’s for the optimistic.”

That’s what I reckon every time I put a bet on.

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