Two jockeys made news here last week.
One was Steve Cauthen, who is in the headlines nearly every day, even when he does nothing. The 16-year-old apprentice, performing before the biggest crowd of the New York season - 36,178 - registered four firsts and three seconds before Seattle Slew won the Wood Memorial Saturday at Aqueduct.
The other was Manuel Yeaza. The 38-year-old Panamanian announced he was taking a new tack, from thoroughbreds to standardbreds. He will drive Greg Scott in his harness racing debut Tuesday night at Monticello Raceway in the Catskills.
Yacca Zacca. There never was a race rider quite like him. There were better ones, I guess; those with more polish and better heads, but none ever gave the $2 bettor the total dedication to victory, race in and race out, that the Panamanian did.
Manuel rode for 20 years, less almost 24 months in suspensions for rough riding. He terrorized many rival jockeys, which was his edge, actually. That and the fact he gave 100 per cent on every horse he climbed aboard.
Not every name jockey does that. There are many who will risk their clavicles in a $100,000 race who wouldn't dream of driving through the same narrow opening along the rail in order to earn a cheap claiming purse.
Yeaza didn't differentiate in that regard. He won with 2,368 of his 10,060 mounts, earned nearly $2 million and would still be horsebacking except for a series of painful knee operations that followed a spill at Belmont Park in 1970.
In keep voting for Ycaza every time those Hall of Fame ballots for jockeys come around. It is a wasted vote. He was never accepted by the Establishment. He frequently embarrassed track management and, in truth, he is best remembered for the races he lost, even though he captured the Washington, D.C. International with Bald Eagle in 1959 and 1960, and put up the finest ride in the history of the Laurel race to score with Fort Marcy over Damascus in 1967.
Ycaza simply outmuscled Bill Shoemaker that day, scoring by a nose over a superior animal. Instead, racing tends to remember the 1962 Travers at Saratoga, when Shoemaker and Jaipur nosed out ycaza and Ridan after a mile and quarter of unrelenting excitement.
Preakness historians never forget Ycaza on Ridan that Spring against Greek Money. Ycaza tried to elbow John L. Rotz into the infield during the stretch drive, lost by a nose, then had the temerity to claim foul against Rotz.
Still, Ycaza's most unforgettable effort had to be on Dr. Fager in the 1967 Jersey Derby. Dr. Fager was much the best of the four horses entered under level weight of 126 pounds. He finsihed first by 6 1/2 lengths over In Reality, at 3 to 10, only to be disqualified by the stewards. The footnote to that chart is a monument to Ycaza's unthinking aggressiveness:
"Dr. Fager went to the front from the outside in the opening strides, came in to tighten it up going under the wire the first time, causing Air Rights and Gallant Moment to brush twice; dropped in on In Reality at the seven-furlong pole, forcing the latter in on Air Rights and Gallant Moment . . . drew clear after reaching the backstretch and drew out to win with complete authority."
That was Yacca Zacca. He was always looking to intimidate, to beat someone's brains out. I hope the drivers at Monticello have their life insurance paid and their sulkies greased because Ycaza, driving No. 6, Greg Scott, a $2,500 claimer in the first race at 6 to 1, will be coming through with the falps up on his go-cart.
Cauthen, meanwhile, can plan or staying with the thoroughbreds a while longer. He is an exceptionally gifted young man, as Saturday's successes again showed.
The question is, why is Cauthen at 16, having proven himself, being asked to ride in New York six days a week and barnstorm on Sundays everywhere from Tipperary to Timbuctoo? Does Lenny Goodman, his agent, need the money that badly?
Cauthen is great for the gate wherever he goes, and there is no reason he should be showing up at such places as Penn National for nothing. But it would be nice to see the young man get a day off occasionally, to catch up on his studies or just rest and relax.
Goodman, incidentally, will have a decision of his own to make on May 27, when Cauthen loses his five-pound apprentice allowance. Braulio Baeza, the jockey for whom Goodman has been booking mounts for 12 years, is nearly ready to return to competition. The agent can't keep two journeymen, come May 27.
Baeza is 37, with a weight problem. Cauthen is a million dollar property, having been beautifully handled and promoted by Goodman. Will Goodman stay with Baeza, or old tomes' sake, or go with Stevie Wonder? The answer would appear to be obvious.