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Charles Town stewards keep track running

October 07, 2000

Charles Town stewards keep track running



By LARRY YANOS / Daily Mail Sports Editor


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The three stewards at the Charles Town Races have spent 110 years of involvement in the thoroughbred horse racing industry.

Frank Utterback leads the way with 46 years of service, followed by Bobby Lotts and Danny Wright with 32 years each.

Utterback first became a Charles Town steward in 1973 while Lotts came aboard in 1997 and Wright in 2000.

All have attended and completed the nationally-acclaimed Stewards' Accreditation Program, sponsored by the University of Louisville.

Utterback, Lotts and Wright may not be household names among the patrons at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval, but owners, trainers, jockeys and other Charles Town employees are certainly aware of their presence.

The job description of a steward could well be defined as "a racing official who enforces rules and regulations concerning all licensed employees of a racetrack."

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The governor must approve all three state stewards. Two stewards are appointed by the state while the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Inc., selects the third.

At Charles Town, Utterback and Wright are the state stewards while Lotts is the association steward.

"Any permit holder issued by the state of West Virginia comes under our jurisdiction," Utterback said. "With the video slot machines in place, we now have over 900 employees under our responsibility. That has added to the work load."

As far as the patrons are concerned, the presence and impact of the stewards are recognized most during the live racing programs.

But Utterback, Lotts and Wright spend lots of time "behind the scenes" to insure the integrity of the sport.

"There's much more paperwork involved now than when I first started," Utterback said. "You really have to keep up with the rules and regulations. They are changing all the time."

The normal work routine for the stewards takes six days a week. Hearings, discussions with employees over racetrack concerns and reviewing film with jockeys take up much of the workload.

"Many people think the only time we meet with jockeys is following a race where an objection or inquiry had been lodged, but that is not true," Utterback said. "We often bring jockeys in the office during the day to review films of races. The movies provide good tools of teaching, especially for the apprentice jockeys. Our purpose is to keep them understanding (the rules and regulations)."

The majority of the paperwork is done in the mornings. And on Thursday, Friday and Saturday - when live racing is conducted - the three Charles Town stewards work a split shift.

Lotts says the stewards, through the aid of films, scrutinize every race run at Charles Town - not just those having an objection or inquiry.

"Often times, we'll get a call from a jockey concerning something which happened in a particular race and we have already seen it and reviewed it," Lotts said.

"We let them know we are watching," Wright added.

While not speaking for Lotts or Wright, Utterback says he never second-guesses a decision.

"In my 27 years involved with horse racing, I have never had second thoughts about a decision," Utterback said. "I take the time to do it proper, I don't put myself in a position to think whether or not I made the right decision."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Utterback, who became Senior State Steward at Charles Town last March, started in thoroughbred horse racing in 1954 when he trained horses for seven years.

He later trained horses from 1962 to 1965 when he began duties as a racing official began as an office clerk at Shenandoah Downs. During the next four years, Utterback worked as a Patrol Judge, Paddock Judge, Identifier/Timer, Clerk of Scales and Placing Judge at both Shenandoah Downs and Charles Town.

Utterback later served as an assistant racing secretary at Shenandoah Downs and racing secretary at Charles Town from 1969-73.

He was first a state steward at Mountaineer Park from 1973-76.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Lotts has been involved in thoroughbred horse racing for 32 years.

He spent six years as a thoroughbred owner and trainer with licenses in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Before being named a state steward in 1997, Lotts served in a number of positions in the racing secretary's office - Horse Identifier, Paddock Judge, Placing Judge, Patrol Judge, Clerk of Scales and Timer.

He also handled the duties of taking entries and hustling horses.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Wright has also been involved in the thoroughbred horse racing industry for 32 years.

He spent 27 years as a jockey and won over 2,300 races - including the New Jersey Derby, the Baushore, Gotham and Mother Goose in New York and the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico.

After retiring from race-riding, Wright pursued a career as a racing official and worked as a summer steward at the Atlantic City Race Course from 1993-96.

He later worked in the racing secretary's office in Maryland and was an alternate steward before accepting the Charles Town position earlier this year.

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