Harness racing driver Joe Bongiorno was taken off two drives at the Meadowlands Racetrack Saturday evening because in a pre-race interview he said “I will not be pushing my horses because the owners said not to try too hard, they are in a series next week.”
The two horses in question that Bongiorno spoke about and was replaced on were Shoobee's Place in the sixth race and Code Word in the eighth race.
“The decision to replace Joe Bongiorno on those two horses was done by the judges,” said John Tomasello, presiding judge at the Meadowlands. “It was done because of the interview he gave before the races and in the best interests of the betting public.
“He was only taken off the two horses he talked about,” Tomasello explained, “Those two horses he indicated would get “easy trips” and we understand about racing and how racing lays out. However we expect horses to be raced to win and we don’t want to hear that they are in a series next week. We are concerned about the races here tonight. That was the reason we made the driver changes tonight. We want to see every horse here tonight given the best chance to win.”
When asked if there will be a further investigation into this situation, Tomasello said “possibly.”
In the sixth race, Shoobee’s Place was driven by Marcus Miller and finished fourth in a photo at odds of 4-1. Code Word was driven by Steve Smith in the eighth race and was never a factor, finishing eighth at odds of 6-1.
Bongiorno, 21, of Colts Neck, NJ, has been driving professionally for less than five years. He currently has 407 career victories and $2.9 million in purses earned by the horses he has driven. In 2011 he was voted the national Amateur Driver of the Year by the United States Harness Writers Association.
Bongiorno could not be reached for comment.
By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com