The racing judges at Rosecroft Raceway suspended driver-trainer Anthony Sapienza yesterday for 30 days "for an unsatisfactory drive due to lack of effort" when he finished out of the money with 4-to-5 favorite Adios Dewey. The triple returned only $162.60 in the first race at the harness track Thursday night.
It was the maximum penalty allowed under Maryland law without proving fraud. The race in question was won by the 2-to-1 second choice, with a 53-to-1 longshot second and a 29-to-1 longshot third.
If Adios Dewey had won the race, with the same horses second and third, the triple would have paid $3,046.80, according to a computer printout obtained by The Washington Post. In the exacta betting, the payoff that race was $53.60; with Adios Dewey winning and the same longshot second, the exacta would have paid $109.40.
Sapienza, 20, of Nanjemoy, Md., also was suspended for five more days for causing interference during the race for $2,500 claimers. The 35-day suspension started yesterday and runs through June 17. Sapienza has until 10 a.m. Monday to appeal the judges' decision to the Harness Board of the Maryland Racing Commission.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Sapienza denied any wrongdoing. "They have to have a scapegoat for the public, and that's me," he said. "They don't have any evidence or anything."
Asked if he would appeal, Sapienza said, "I'll talk to a lawyer and decide. (But) the appeal system is ridiculous. I've never known anyone to beat an appeal. The commission backs up the judges because they hire the judges. Really, you've got a 99-to-1 shot of beating an appeal, and if you don't appeal then you look guilty."
The judges took no action against driver Gusztav Toplenszky, 41, of North Tonawanda, N.Y., who finished second with Red Rose Champ. Toplenszky, who Friday night denied that he was involved in any attempt to fix the race, and Sapienza, along with four other persons, were barred from the track in an independent action by track management Friday.
"He drove to do the best he could in the race," said the presiding judge, John Knight.
Management, exercising its right of exclusion without giving a specific reason, also barred Joseph Sapienza, father of Anthony Sapienza and coowner of four of the five horses his son trains and drives; George Toplenszky, brother of Gusztav Toplenszky and trainer of Red Rose Champ; Joe Nero, who is licensed as an owner, and Sandy C. Lee, also licensed as an owner, who track officials described as Nero's girlfriend.
Sapienza denied yesterday that he or his father bet on Thursday's first race. Toplenszky denied Friday night that either he, his brother or his wife had done so. Asked yesterday why the triple came back so short, Sapienza said, "I have no idea. They should try and get the persons who hit it and ask them."
Knight said that the investigation into the race would continue but that he did not want to delay action on Sapienza. "Just because you set down one man doesn't mean that if further information evolves, further action won't be taken . . . This will make people aware of the fact we are doing something about it."
Knight said there was no witness to any possible fraud or conspiracy to fix the race.
"The only thing we went on was the manner in which he drove the horse and the betting on the race," Knight said. "It was a low (triple) payoff, and he wasn't used as much as a 4-to-5 favorite (in the win pool) might be used or as much as you might expect it to be.
"We felt this man drove an unsatisfactory race (by) the manner in which he drove the horse. He let people get in the hole in front of him going to the first quarter. He just didn't do a good job."