BALTIMORE — Jockey agent Bobby Vaughan was running through the Pimlico stable area on a recent morning, a sharp contrast to the typical languid pace of the race track backstretch. He slowed to a trot to explain what his hurry was. "I've only got my rider lined up on eight mounts," he said. "I think I know where I can find a ninth."
Then he dashed off to find the trainer who would use the services of Allen Stacy on a horse two days hence, so the young jockey wouldn't have to sit out a single race on the Pimlico program. There is little rest for Stacy these days, and no rest for Vaughan. They are running after a lofty goal: the Eclipse Award for America's best apprentice jockey of 1986.
"It's more than a objective," Vaughan said. "It's an obsession."
Vaughan thought he had left this rat race of the jockey agent business three years ago. "I was doing good in real estate at the time I met Allen, and I knew he was really something special. When I took his book, I told him my dream as an agent was to have an Eclipse Award-winning rider. I said, 'You do the riding. I'll do everything else.' "
Stacy has kept his part of the bargain; his skill has been evident to Maryland racegoers ever since he broke into the sport. He leads the Pimlico jockey standings and is the top race-winning apprentice in the country this season. But like any jockey, he is no better than the mounts his agent books for him.
The stereotype of a jockey agent is a fast-talking hustler with a dogeared notebook under his arm, but Vaughan is a little different. He's a fast-talking hustler with a computer.
He has the name of every horse on the Maryland circuit filed in the computer, organized according to the class for which it runs. He enters his own ranking of the horses Stacy has a chance to ride, so that if a stakes race for males on the turf is scheduled at Pimlico, Vaughan hits a button and the machine tells him: 1. Castelets. 2. Goose Bumps. So his first step would be to contact Castelets' trainer and see if he is going to enter the race.
Vaughan is continually revising his evaluation of every category. Last month one of his principal clients, trainer Barclay Tagg, claimed a maiden filly named Bear Feet, and Vaughan saw that he had no horses in the category of 3- and 4-year-old maiden fillies. So he went to Tagg immediately and told him he would like Stacy to ride Bear Feet the next time she ran.
The race for her came yesterday, and Bear Feet won impressively. Now Vaughan would rank her No. 1 in the "non-winners of two races" category. He thought Stacy might have a chance to get aboard the third-place finisher in yesterday's maiden race, Fancy Feathers, so a "1" goes next to the name of Fancy Feathers among the maiden fillies in Maryland.
A description of Vaughan's computer operation probably makes his life sound more organized than it is. An agent inevitably makes more commitments than he can keep.
"The toughest thing about my job is trying to ride the best horse you can and still keeping the people happy who have been good to you," Vaughan said.
Vaughan has been called before the stewards so often for making two commitments to ride in a race that one of them told him, "Your chair never collects any dust." Vaughan said he has spent the last couple of days trying to stay out of the way of one particularly irate trainer who thought Stacy was going to ride his horse. But such conflicts come with any jockey agent's territory.
That's just part of the job. The lives and careers of agents and riders are so intertwined that agents universally refer to their jockey as "I." Tuesday, Vaughan took Stacy's laundry to the cleaners and did other errands for him. Thursday, they will fly together in a private plane so Stacy can ride one horse at the Meadowlands. "I'm an agent and a second father," Vaughan said.
But Vaughan has no complaints about his seven-day-a-week work schedule; the job means more to him than the standard 25% he collects from Stacy's earnings. He wants the Eclipse Award, and he figures Stacy has the edge over his chief rival, California-based Corey Black.
"This is my dream," Vaughan said. "When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a professional athlete. This is the closest I'm going to get. When Allen is riding, it's me out there."