bowie smaa logoby Richard Hackerman

February 14, 1975

The numbers on the $18 trifecta ticket box purchased were 2, 8 and 12. The final order of finish was 8-12-2.

Good handicapping?  Good luck?

The clerk at the mutuel window who sold all 38 winning tickets to a brother of a Maryland jockey had doubts.

Allegedly six jockeys who rode in that Valentine’s Day race at Bowie bought 38 “box” tickets.  None of the six horses they rode finished better than sixth in the 12-horse field. The entire field never changed position all the way around the track.  The win odds on the first three finishers were 5-1, 7-2 and 47-1. With the favorites finishing off the board this Bowie trifecta paid $927.30.

Bowie offered only one triple per day in 1975, saving it until the last race of each card to keep patrons around.

Track stewards claimed that the videotape of the race proved many of the riders on losing mounts had thrown the race.  Their biggest suspicions focused on Eric Walsh, “who took Mike O. very wide early in the race and kept him there. Mike O., though the betting favorite, finished dead last, more than 27 lengths behind the winner,” according to the Washington City Paper.

All but one jockey denied fixing the race.  Their supporters included longtime racing writer Clem Florio, then working for the Washington Post, and legendary trainer King Leatherbury who trained Mike O., the favorite.  Leatherbury said that his horse’s most recent published workout was incorrect and the horse was “a bum.”  Neither was called to testify at the trial.

Four riders — Luigi Gino, Jesse Davidson, Eric Walsh, and Ben Feliciano — were convicted of fixing a sporting event, sentenced to six months in prison, and lost riding privileges.  Walsh, the most successful of the four, committed suicide rather than face a prison sentence.

Davidson left racing and then returned to ride successfully for several more years, retiring in 1988.  Gino and Feliciano also returned to the sport, Gino as a trainer and Feliciano as a trainer and then a jockey agent.

1. “They fixed it, were broken,” Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1993
2. “The gang that didn’t ride straight,” Washington City Paper, February 18, 2000