The racing judges at Rosecroft Raceway are investigating the first race on Thursday's harness racing program in which the triple paid only $162.60 even though the 4-to-5 favorite finished out of the money and a 53-to-1 longshot was second.
Track management, acting independently of the judges, yesterday banned two drivers in that race and four other persons from the grounds, including the brother of one of the drivers and the father of the other. They gave no specific reason other than that they felt it was in the track's best business interest.
Management banned drivers Anthony Sapienza, 20, of Nanjemoy, Md., and Gusztav Toplenszky, 41, of North Tonawanda, N.Y.
"It is Rosecroft's policy to exercise our (common law) right of exclusion anytime we feel it is in our best business interest," said William E. Miller II, track president.
Miller declined further comment, but said he also ordered a horse trained and driven by Sapienza to be scratched from tonight's card. He also ordered a horse driven by Toplenszky and trained by his brother scratched from last night's card.
Presiding judge John Knight said he had interviewed five of the nine drivers in the race (including the two who were banned), planned to interview the others by this morning, had gone over computer printouts of the betting patterns and watched replays of the race. He said he expected his investigation to be completed and a decision announced by noon today.
The exclusion of the drivers and others pertains only to Rosecroft. If the judges, who are state employes, find any wrongdoing by any driver, any suspension they impose would apply at any track in North America. Under Maryland law, the judges can suspend a driver for up to 30 days. The racing commission is empowered to hand out a more severe penalty. Any penalty imposed by the judges can be appealed.
Sapienza drove Adios Dewey, the 4-to-5 favorite in the first race. Toplenszky drove Red Rose Champ, who finished second. Sapienza's horse finished fourth but was placed sixth for causing interference in the first turn of the race for $2,500 claimers.
The others banned were Joe Sapienza, father of Anthony Sapienza; George Toplenszky, brother of Gusztav Toplenszky and trainer of Red Rose Champ; Joe Nero, who track officials said frequented the stable area, and Sandy C. Lee, described by track officials as Nero's girlfriend.
Gusztav Toplenszky said that neither he, his brother nor his wife bet on the race. None of the others could be reached for comment.
"Evidently they thought I had something to do with fixing a trifecta race," Toplenszky said, breaking into tears at one point. "The trifecta (triple) came back short. I drove my horse to win. They handed me a letter to get off the property in 48 hours. I offered these guys to take a lie detector test. I had absolutely nothing to do with it."
Asked if he would take the track to court, Toplenszky said, "No, I ain't got the money."
In a triple race, the bettor has to select the exact order of finish of the first three horses. The race was won by Colonel Sur, 2-to-1 second choice driven by Gary Ewing. Red Rose Champ was a length behind in second, with Chipman's Tammy, a 29-to-1 shot driven by Les Givens, third another 1 1/2 lengths behind.
There was an unusual betting pattern on those three horses from the time the parimutuel windows opened at 7:01 p.m. until the race went off at 7:30, according to sources. One bettor bought a $30 straight triple of 3-8-4, the winning combination, while Adios Dewey was not bet heavily in the triple even though he was the win pool betting favorite.
A total of $28,437 was bet in the triple and $9,591 in the exacta, which also returned a short price, $53.60.
Replays show that leaving the gate from Post 2, Sapienza's horse veered left and then right, causing interference with the No. 1 horse, Ocala Star Fox. Ewing, driving No. 3, was able to avoid the interference and take the lead. Chipman's Tammy, No. 4, also avoided the trouble and was third at the quarter, with Toplenszky's horse fourth. Shanandoah Chief, driven by Winston Lineweaver from Post 7, contended for the lead early but faded.
In the back of the race, James Briscoe, driving Damsel's Image, bumped into Swanne Girl, No. 5, causing that horse to interfere with No. 6 Maniwake, and none of them ever were in contention.
here was lots of booing in the grandstand and clubhouse and Tom Aldrich, track general manager, said he called track security and asked them to alert Prince George's County police if the situation in the stands got out of hand, which it did not.