Bud Delp rants and blusters a lot, but the trainer of Spectacular Bid is a softy at heart. while he often has been the harshest critic of his jockey, Ron Franklin, he always has been the first to forgive the teen-ager for his sins.
Wednesday, after hearing that Franklin was arrested in California Monday for alleged possession of cocaine, Delp reacted with anger and said he was grounding his jockey until further notice. He relented today, saying Franklin would resume riding for him Saturday.
"I'm convinced he was a victim of circumstances," Delp said at Pimlico today. At worst, he thought, Franklin's arrest was the result of a boys-will-be-boys escapade.
Franklin returned Wedesday from California to Delp's home in Laurel, where he has lived for more than a year, and related the story of his misadventure.
He told Delp he was visiting relatives after participating in an all-star jockeys' race Sunday at Hollywood Park, in which he finished 10th. He went with his cousin and other friends in his uncle's Cadillac to Disneyland, where their entertainment was going to include a six-pack of beer and a quarter of a gram of cocaine, Delp said.
Since he was not drinking, Franklin was elected to cut the cocaine with a knife, he told Delp. As he was performing this chore in the back seat, a security guard happened to glance into the car. Franklin slid the cocaine under a jacket, but police searched the car and found it, according to the narrative.
"The cousin and his girl friend told the police it was their cocaine," Delp said. "But they arrested Ronnie. They recognized him, and that's the price he pays for being sort of a celebrity. If he were just another 19-year-old teen-ager, Ronnie Franklin wouldn't have been busted. They put him behind bars for four or five hours,"
"I've never used the stuff before," Franklin told United Press International. "My idea of relaxing is going to a disco on Saturday nights and maybe having a few Bloody Marys."
Delp said Franklin was too tired to ride today, but he will return to action Saturday. Next week he must return to California for a hearing, and Delp will accompany him and speak on his behalf.
"I'm behind him 100 percent," Delp said.
The Disneyland arrest is just the latest bit of turbulence in Franklin's career and his relationship with Delp. In many ways it is reminiscent of the hullabaloo that followed Franklin's horrendous ride on Spectacular Bid in the Florida Derby this winter.
Immediately after the race, Delp gave his jockey a vicious public lambasting. Everybody who heard it assumed Franklin was finished as Spectacular Bid's rider.But within a day or two Delp cooled off, said Franklin would never make a mistake like that again, and even alibied a bit for his jockey, suggesting that Latin riders had ganged up on him.
Similarly, Delp's initial reaction when he heard about Franklin's arrest was to want to "kick his butt." Some people thought Delp would use the incident as an excuse to dump Franklin, whose inadequacies were glaringly apparent throughout the Triple Crown series.
But there is obviously a strong bond between the trainer and the jockey that can't be explained by the self-interest and expediency that govern most race track relationships.
Franklin is a professional liability to Delp (and, after the cocaine arrest, maybe a personal embarrassment, too). The trainer almost surely will have to replace him as Spectacular Bid's jockey before the year is over, and he surely knows it. The arrest would have given Delp an easy, expedient way to do it.
Yet Delp would not abandon the kid at a time when he was engulfed by personal troubles. His loyalty to Franklin is as admirable as it is irrational.