Man in tall company as Derby scandal widens


A horse doctor from Maryland seems to have played no small role in a two-alarm scandal in Kentucky involving the governor of the Bluegrass State, the nation's most famous thoroughbred track and a couple of scalped tickets to the big race.

When last heard from, Dr. James M. Casey, the Laurel horse doctor-dentist and thoroughbred breeder, was accused of trying to scalp a scalped ticket to the Kentucky Derby. (TJI, June 2).

On Derby Day, Casey needed two tickets. He met a scalper who insisted that he buy three, at $100 each. (The tickets had a face value of $42 each.) When Casey offered to sell the third ticket for $100, his customer turned out to be an undercover Louisville cop. The horse doctor spent 13 hours in a lockup, part of it chained to a wall, before he was released.

Angered by his treatment, Casey has been fighting back. He's hired a Louisville lawyer, and the lawyer has been investigating the case. One of the things he learned over the summer was that Casey's tickets -- obtained from the unidentified scalper -- were part of a bunch of tickets issued to Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton by Churchill Downs.

Since then, it has been learned, through reports in the Louisville Courier-Journal, that Churchill Downs sets aside 553 highly coveted Derby tickets for Patton every year. And that Patton, in turn, sells the tickets to political cronies and other state officials and collects the money for Churchill Downs. (How's that for weird? Not Ticketron, Govtron.) And this is a big deal in Kentucky right now because Churchill Downs -- this will sound familiar to Marylanders -- has been lobbying the governor and state legislators to get electronic slot machines.

So it's all seen as terribly cozy and mildly sleazy. Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that Kentucky's Executive Branch Ethics Commission will investigate the matter.

Doc Casey? He's not finished yet. He's due in Louisville on Oct. 25 for trial.

Maybe by then he'll find out who the original scalper was. This story is so strange it wouldn't surprise me if he turned out to be the governor himself.

Music program needs help

God only knows how much human potential has been lost in the absence of musical instruction in Baltimore's public schools. Only one in five have instruments to offer students. A third of city schools have no music program at all. There hasn't been money in the school budget to purchase new instruments since 1982.

That's all according to Jill Warzer, the city's music curriculum specialist, quoted in a Saturday Sun story reporting a corporate contribution of $75,000 for new instruments at four schools.

A natural reaction to the lack of music instruction: Kids can't read satisfactorily and we're worrying about flute lessons?

Kids should have as well-rounded an education as possible, but, obviously, reading, writing and math skills take priority.

Still, think about it. Entertainment is a huge industry in this country. Two of its biggest segments, in terms of global bucks and glamour, are sports and music. Wouldn't it make sense that music get at least as much emphasis as sports?

Yet, in Baltimore, the system is too poor to afford music programs, and for a couple of decades now thousands of kids have been deprived of that enrichment. A system that produced some fabulous talent -- horn player and composer Dontae Winslow, jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut, the accomplished trumpeter Jari Villanueva, to name just a few whom I know personally -- can't offer more than a fifth of its students access to an instrument?

(Striking contrast: Private schools in and around Baltimore are receiving donations and spending millions to expand athletic facilities, while thousands of kids in the public schools don't even have a music program. Next time some rich man wants his name attached to something, maybe it could be a recital hall in a Baltimore public school rather than an athletic field at an already well-endowed private one. Maybe each of the private schools could adopt a city public school and share its resources with underprivileged kids.)

VH1 music television started its Save The Music effort to restore school music programs in American cities. Good. It would be nice to see the entertainment industry, which reaps bazillions of dollars worldwide, do more of the same -- where it's most needed, where God only knows the potential.

A 'miraculous' trip

It was the final wish of Ellen Vollenweider, whose obituary appeared in these pages Saturday, that she see and touch the Atlantic Ocean. So last month, her two daughters, Barbara Clayville and Dorothy Breen, took her to Ocean City. They helped her into a wheelchair with special tires for the beach. They covered her with a blanket. They pushed her against the wind across the sand to the shoreline. "We had been on a whale watch in California, where I live, in April," said Breen. "And that's when she said she'd like to put her feet in the ocean, one last time."

And so the trip to Ocean City over Labor Day weekend -- the start, it turned out, of the last four weeks of Ellen Vollenweider's life. "She got her feet in the water," Breen said. "A wave got her pretty good. ... She always thought the ocean was miraculous, the way it just kept coming. She cried when she saw it."

( is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. Letters can also be addressed to TJI, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

Pub Date: 10/04/99

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