When the Maryland Racing Commission convenes next month, chairman John H. "Jack" Mosner Jr. probably will receive a standing ovation at the board's regular monthly meeting.
In the minds of many observers, the retired banker, who has had a lifelong interest in horse racing and loves to bet, has done an efficacious and commendable job during a time of turmoil and change in the state's racing industry.
Mosner's two-year term as chairman ends on Wednesday, and the July meeting probably will be his last appearance as chairman.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer has yet to name a successor. But board members being prominently mentioned to lead the panel are John McDaniel, Carol McGowan and Allan Levey.
Under recent legislative edict, a chairman's term is now limited to two years. Mosner still has two more years of his four-year term to serve on the commission.
He has taken an activist role. On one occasion last year, he publicly chastised thoroughbred track management and horsemen and minced few words in practically ordering them to end a dispute over the closing of Pimlico for winter training.
On another occasion, Mosner halted a board meeting and cut off hearing all requests from harness interests until an internal agreement was worked out between management and horsemen that ultimately led to the start of the current inter-track wagering experiment.
Most of all, Mosner has been a proponent of fans, listening to complaints, installing suggestion boxes at the tracks and then checking on management to make sure they have followed them up.
He has nagged management to card bigger fields, paid close attention to the financial situation of the tracks (first during the Mark Vogel bankruptcy proceedings at Rosecroft Raceway and now with the declining betting revenues during the first five months of this year at the flat tracks) and at the same time helped change archaic rules affecting horsemen and management.
But he said he has "failed miserably" in one aspect: getting better print and electronic media coverage for racing.
If it were up to Mosner, horse racing, not baseball, would lead the nightly televised sports reports and also would be the lead story on the sports pages.
Triple Crown TV Blues
The television ratings for this year's Triple Crown races were the lowest in the history of the sport.
The reason, according to Ed Seigenfeld, director of Triple Crown Productions: "There was no story to tell. At least, last year for the Derby, there was Arazi. Then the NBA play-offs this year killed the Preakness numbers and going into the Belmont, there was no chance of a Triple Crown winner."
The numbers, in percentage of households watching the show: 7.3 Kentucky Derby, 4.7 Preakness, 4.2 Belmont Stakes. Last year the numbers were 8.9 Derby, 5.6 Preakness, 4.5 Belmont Stakes.
Triple Crown damage control
In light of the double tragedies in this year's Triple Crown -- the deaths of Union City in the Preakness and Prairie Bayou in the Belmont Stakes -- Seigenfeld has done some research.
He said that since the Triple Crown began in 1870, 3,315 horses have started in the three races. Four horses have been destroyed -- none in the Kentucky Derby, one in the Preakness and three in the Belmont Stakes. He also said that 32 horses have been eased or have been non-finishers in the races for a variety of reasons -- 13 in the Kentucky Derby, six in the Preakness, 13 in the Belmont Stakes.
Seigenfeld used the media guides from Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont Park as his source material.
Capuano family affair
Gary Capuano usually trains in the shadow of his older brother, Dale, preferring to have just 10 to 12 runners in his barn. But after some success last year, he now has 23.
He said he has turned out the multiple stakes-winning mare Silver Tango for the summer, but hopes to have her back in action for the Maryland Million on Oct. 9. Another one of his stakes runners, Jest Punching, is ready to return in 10 days to two weeks. But his 3-year-old filly, Sentimental Tango, suffered a slab fracture in a knee in a winning race at Laurel about 10 days ago, and will undergo surgery.
The Capuano brothers' younger sister, Gina, recently passed her trainer's test. "We're trying to convince her to take a string of horses to Delaware Park, but right now she hasn't made up her mind what she wants to do," Gary Capuano said.
Herman Greenberg, breeder of Belmont Stakes winner Colonial Affair is a regular Laurel race-goer. Greenberg, who lives in Middleburg, Va., said that he owns a half-sister to Colonial Affair named Devil's Flirt, who is a 4-year-old maiden. "She ran at Laurel last year, but then pulled a muscle," Greenberg said. Devil's Flirt is trained at Delaware Park by Noel Twyman and should race shortly. Greenberg still owns Snuggle, the dam of Colonial Affair. "She's only 8 years old," he said. "She's back in foal and we are selling a yearling half-sister to Colonial Affair at Keeneland [Ky.] this fall". . . . When Prenuptial broke his maiden last Tuesday in the last of eight Laurel steeplechases, he gave 22-year-old Hill Parker, of Lexington, Ky., his first winner under rules as a trainer. Parker, originally from Upper Marlboro, recently graduated from the University of Kentucky. . . . Baltimore stockbroker Colvin "Greg" Ryan, who doubles as a jump jockey, won three of the eight hurdles events in the steeplechase series and was the leading rider. Tom Voss led the trainers list by winning two of the eight races.