As a money-saving measure, the state of Maryland might consider disbanding its racing commission, dismissing the sport's stewards and the rest of its officialdom and letting Judge Milton Allen run the whole industry.
The jurist from the Circuit Court of Baltimore City obviously knows vastly more than anybody else, for he imposed his opinion last week over years of racing commission deliberations when he ordered the state to license jockey Jesse Davidson.
Davidson had been barred from riding since he was convicted for his role in the infamous, fixed triple race at Bowie on St. Valentine's Day, 1975. But Judge Allen declared that the commission had "acted in an arbitrary and capricious" manner by banishing him.
When Davidson made another in a series of attempts to be licensed last year, the secretary of the commission sent him a letter pointing out that the board previously had decided he should never be reinstated as a jockey. The letter did say, however, that if Davidson insisted on appearing before the commission, he would be granted a hearing.
This was "arbitrary and capricious"? There probably hasn't been a racing issue in Maryland that has received such thorough consideration.
Davidson was convicted after an FBI investigation of the fix and a jury trial. Members of the racing commission have considered his plight on three occasions, and they have agonized over the decision.
They felt sympathy for a man who has paid his debt to society, and magnanimously allowed Davidson and the other fixers to be licensed at the track in other capacities -- but not as jockeys. That was a reasonable, well-considered position.
If anything, it was too lenient. Racing has enough image and integrity problems without having convicted race-fixers as part of the game.
I might be more sympathetic to Davidson if he admitted his guilt and pleaded that he had paid enough for his sins. But he has maintained that during his whole career he was pure as the driven snow, and only in this one instance did he find himself an innocent victim of circumstances. Does he think everybody is as gullible a sucker as the bettors who were at Bowie on that fateful Valentine's Day?
But what is just as distressing as the specifics of this decision is the growing tendency of courts to intervene in racing, to overrule well-considered judgments of the sport's officials when there is no pressing need for them to do so.
Before the 1983 Preakness, a judge wiped away in one day the commission's years of work to hammer out an intelligent policy on the use of the drug Lasix.
"It's disappointing from the administrative standpoint to have the court make a ruling of this type," said Commission Chairman Bill Furey. "Nothing here is going to affect the integrity of Maryland racing adversely, but nobody likes to have the knees cut out from under the authority to regulate."
Indeed, if the sport's officials can't take strong action against race-fixers, what can they do? If what Davidson did is forgivable, is there anything left which is unforgivable?