OXON HILL -- The "triple bug" is back.
The Maryland Racing Commission unanimously reversed itself yesterday and restored a graduated scale of weight allowances for jockeys starting out as apprentices.
Maryland will now return to a state that has bragging rights as the spawning ground for champion jockeys such as Chris McCarron and Kent Desormeaux, former jockey's agent Chick Lang, Sr. told the commission in impromptu testimony.
Under the new ruling, apprentices, or bug riders, as they are referred to in the vernacular of the track, will get a 10-pound weight allowance until they ride five winners. This is commonly referred to as the triple bug.
After that the scale drops to seven pounds until 35 winners are ridden. Then the apprentice rides with a 5-pound weight break for a year starting from the date of the fifth winner.
Trainer Eddie Gaudet, jockey's agents Tom LaDuca and Joe McKay as well as current apprentices Bill Moorefield and Jesus Salinas told the commissioners that the extra weight concessions are needed to encourage horsemen to ride inexperienced jockeys.
Two years ago the board, on the urging of the Jockeys' Guild, adopted a standard policy that gave all apprentices a uniform five-pound weight allowance.
The move was prompted by complaints from some veteran jockeys that they were losing too many mounts to the apprentices.
But this year a scarcity of apprentices showed up to ride in Maryland and the state, which produced such recent Eclipse Award winning apprentices as Desormeaux, Mike Luzzi, Allen Stacy and Mark Johnston, was shut out in that category. Horsemen became alarmed that the system was preventing local trainers from developing young riders.
Mickey Solomone, representing the Jockeys' Guild, was the only opponent to the rule change. He said that under the 10-7-5 pound rule, young jockeys are forced to diet too severely and are then driven to use drugs. He also said inexperienced jockeys are a hazard to journeyman jockeys on the track.
The rule will not go into effect until it is reviewed on an emergency basis by the Administrative Executive Legislative Review committee in Annapolis.
In other action yesterday, the commission:
* Created a new licensing category specifically for exercise riders.
* Approved All Triple wagering on races at Rosecroft Raceway on a trial basis.
* Established a $2,500 cap on fines levied by the stewards.
* Allowed horses, coupled as one betting entry, to compete in the Daily Double.
* Voted to unanimously support the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association workmen's compensation bill that has been introduced in the House of Delegates.
* Listened to horsemen's complaints about the Quick Official and 14-horse fields, but expressed no desire to eliminate either one.