Ron Franklin's job as the rider of Spectacular Bid brought him a year of fame and success he never earned.
Suddenly, fate has turned the tables on the 19-year-old. Franklin's personal life is in turmoil, and his future as the jockey for trainer Bud Delp's horses is in doubt, for all the wrong reasons.
Franklin had been arrested for alleged possession of cocaine on Monday night, but he received an even worse blow yesterday. Delp said that he was dropping his jockey, but he didn't indicate whether he was doing it temporarily or permanently.
"He's suspended by me," the trainer said. "As of today he's not riding my horses. That's all I'm going to tell you."
Franklin had gone to Hollywood Park for an all-star jockeys' race on Sunday, and the next night was visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. He was arrested after a security officer said he saw a man in a car "cutting a white substance with a razor."
Released on $1,500 bond, Franklin is scheduled to appear for a hearing in the next 10 days. His offense could bring him a one-year jail term, though such a sentence would be unlikely for a first offender.
Franklin had been scheduled to return to Maryland yesterday and ride Bold Ridona for Delp in the third race at Pimlico. But the trainer replaced him in the morning with jockey Mario Pino.
The cocaine arrest was just the latest in a series of misadventures for Franklin since Spectacular Bid carried him to a victory in the Kentucky Derby. He was fined for kicking a horse at Pimlico after a losing performance. He was fined for cursing a security guard who asked to see his identification badge in the Pimlico Stable area.
He was fined after he got into a fight with jockey Angel Cordero Jr. in the Belmont Park jockeys' room. The day before the Belmont Stakes, he was named in a paternity suit filed by a waitress who said he had fathered her five-month-old child. Then he lost the Belmont, and was widely (though wrongly) blamed for moving too soon and contributing to Spectacular Bid's defeat.
Franklin's recent personal problems are surely a result of his inability to cope with pressure and success.
The kid from Dundalk, Md., lacks the savvy and sophistication of last year's superstar teen-age jockey, Steve Cauthen. More important, he lacks any semblance of the ability that bred in Cauthen an air of mature self-confidence. Franklin had been trust into a role for which he was completely ill-equipped.
Franklin had displayed little ability and aptitude when he started riding for Delp last year. But the trainer liked him, took him into his own home and referred to Franklin as his "third son." The Meyerhoff family, which owns Spectacular Bid, liked him too. Although he was barely competent to ride in run-of-the-mill races at Pimlico, Franklin found himself placed under the extreme pressure that the Triple Crown creates for even seasoned riders.
If Delp was serving as Franklin's surrogate father, he was not supplying much of a role model. After Spectacular Bid had thrust him into the national limelight, Delp got a suspension for beating up an exercise rider. He supported Franklin when the paranoid kid blamed a conspiracy of Latin riders for ganging up on him in the Florida Derby. When Franklin cussed the security guard at Pimlico, Delp joined in and got a fine, too.
Franklin was so poorly prepared to cope with life at the top of his profession that he probably doesn't deserve full blame for his present woes. If a child is thrown into the deep end of a pool and drowns, do you blame him for not knowing how to swim? Or do you blame the person who threw him in?