Trainer Lorenzo Robinson had the unique distinction of winning races in separate countries yesterday. MR DOITBETTA romping home by 13 lengths in the inaugural running of the Simply Magic Cup over 1820 metres at Caymanas Park and a 70-1 outsider to victory at Woodbine racetrack in Toronto, Canada earlier in the day. Robinson, a noted owner, trainer and breeder, was not present at Caymanas Park to see his fast-improving 3-y-o gelding, MR DOITBETTA (9-2), make hacks of his seven age-group rivals in the Simply Magic Cup to make it two in a row, but the news was music to his ears. Instead, Robinson was at Woodbine to lead in his other winner, having obtained a licence to train at Canada’s premier racetrack a fortnight ago, Speaking from Canada via telephone shortly after his double victory, Robinson said he was on top of the world. “Judging from the manner of his two recent wins, MR DOITBETTA, who, I understand, won in good time of 1:57.2, could develop into a live classic contender with the Derby, St. Leger and next month’s Lotto Clasic (Governor’s Cup) fast approaching. “The plan is to commute between Jamaica and Canada and, having started with a bang in Canada, it could open doors for me in no time up here,” he added. Ridden by the promising claiming apprentice Hakeen Pottinger, MR DOITBETTA was held off the early pace as the 7-5 favourite MY WAY led under pressure from ANOTHER FURY (5-1) approaching the final bend. By then, MR DOITBETTA had made rapid headway and, coming three wide into the straight, quickly disposed of MY WAY to win by a wide margin from 2-1 chance DR TRAIN. In the absence of Robinson, MR DOITBETTA was saddled by stand in trainer Lincoln Lungs. A roan gelding by Vibank out of Olympic Advice, “DOITBETTA” is owned and bred by Robinson as well. On a day when second-race winner, 3-2 favourite BARS OF GOLD was disqualified by the stewards for causing interference at the start, the nine-race programme proved challenging for punters. The upsets were provided by MIRACLE RECOVERY (made all) at 19-1 in the first race, KIRI at 7-1 in the third and TARANTINO at 9-2 in the fifth. Champion jockey Shane Ellis rode two winners in BAD BOY JUSTIN (3-1) and SURE MAN (5-2) in the sixth and seventh races, respectively.
When Knievel took aim at Idaho’s Snake River gorge in a rocket-powered motorcycle in 1974, Saltman signed on as one of the stunt’s promoters. They agreed that Saltman could write a book about the project afterward. The Skycycle floated into the canyon, and three years later when the book came out, the men’s cordial relationship hit the rocks too. Saltman, by then an executive of 20th Century Fox Sports, says he brightened as Knievel walked toward him on the studio’s backlot, thinking the showman was there to talk about another jump. As two of Knievel’s friends grabbed Saltman, the hero of millions of American kids took an aluminum bat to the older man, who put his hands up to try to protect his head. Because this happened on the kind of studio street used for movie scenes, witnesses evidently thought it was an act – until Knievel fled and Saltman stayed down in a blood puddle. Knievel was sentenced to six months on a county work farm but avoided paying Saltman millions in civil damages by declaring bankruptcy. Saltman recovered from two broken arms, with a steel plate in his left forearm, and went back to business. He says he came to feel pity for Knievel, whose All-American image never was the same. Knievel had been upset at his portrayal in the book, although Saltman says the stuff about drinking, gambling and womanizing was nothing the former Robert Craig Knievel Jr. hadn’t said about himself. “He always said, `I broke his wrist so he couldn’t write again,’ ” Saltman said. And for nearly all this time, Saltman didn’t write again. He let the Knievel episode speak for itself. Until the day a grandson asked a question. “Poppy,” the 13-year-old said, “why don’t you like EvelKnievel?” Saltman, 75 and living near Palm Springs with his wife Mollie, decided to write his own story. He dictated it into a tape recorder, often at the San Fernando Valley facility where Mollie undergoes dialysis. The process, he said, was “catharsis.” The book is called “Fear NoEvel: An Insider’s Look at Hollywood,” but only one chapter is about Knievel, and that was written by co-author Thomas Lyons. It’s mostly – I’ve read excerpts, not the whole book – about the people he’s met and done business with, from Madame Chiang Kai-shek (avisitor to the family home when Saltman was a kid), Tip O’Neill (his godfather) and the Kennedy boys, to Cary Grant, Bob Hope and Steve Allen, to Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and Wayne Gretzky. He even played tennis with Boris Yeltsin once. “I only drop the names of people I know,” Saltman said. A two-hour chat with Sheldon Arthur Saltman over dessert at Jerry’s Famous Deli didn’t turn serious until the man dressed casually in a green cardigan, polo shirt and jeans had spun a few stories about brushes – and direct collisions – with greatness. About watching Andy Williams threaten to cancel an appearance in Jackson, Miss., when a hotel refused to give a room key to saxophonist Plaz Johnson: “Everybody out, everything back in the car,” Saltman remembers Williams saying. “That was heroism.” About working for Jack Kent Cooke, for the Ali-Frazier promotion and with the Lakers in the ’70s: “I didn’t like the way he treated people,” Saltman said, though he admired Cooke’s business sense. “Mr. Cooke had raised the (Lakers) seats on the floor to $25. I said, `Sports is for families. One man isn’t going to pay $100 to take his family to the game.’ Mr. Cooke said, `Not only will they pay $100, but one day they’ll pay a lot more than that.’ Mr. Cooke was prophetic.” About his respect for Ali, and a not-so-prophetic remark ringside at a Jerry Quarry bout: “Ali turned around to my wife and said, `What a terrible way to make a living. My son will carry a briefcase.’ Now his daughter is a fighter.” About discovering that Robinson, greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time, had one mortal fear: “He was afraid of elevators. I took an elevator to the 16th floor once, and then I waited for him to walk up the stairs. He was Sugar Ray Robinson, so he could do it.” About a bawdy line Father Robert Drinan, the former Massachusetts congressman, dropped on a law-school class: “How is a good contract like a tight skirt?” Saltman recites. “It binds the assignees.” From the days when “The Andy Williams Show” was cutting-edge TV and contracts were sealed with a handshake, Saltman says he has realized the entertainment and sports world has changed for the worse. “I didn’t see it happening,” he said. “I’m not that profound. I was just a guy doing a job. … My job, to a great extent, was to (publicize) people who were true celebrities. Unfortunately, I also had to make heroes out of bums. “There’s no appreciation (now), no respect for history,” Saltman said. “There are a lot of one-night, one-song wonders. The only way a lot of these people stay in the press is by being antisocial, breaking laws. They seem to get by on the shock. The Lindsay Lohans, the Paris Hiltons, the Britney Spears, they don’t respect their audience. “Our values are all wrong. Just because a guy is born with an overactive pituitary gland, that doesn’t make him a valued member of society (or) an example to be followed. Celebrity is a danger in the hands of the wrong people. “In my experience, the real celebrities are those who never take anything for granted. … A real celebrity is somebody who has the ability to give something back – and does.” Of course, Saltman admits, this is no recent trend. He remembers hearing a young movie-maker reject Gregory Peck for a role with the words: “But Mr. Peck, what have you done recently?” He refuses to sound like an old guy complaining about These Kids Today. “I love the kids today,” Saltman said. “There are a lot (of young performers) who are wonderful.” And he hopes his book will help. “There was a dignity in the old days,” Saltman said. “(Because) I’ve had those good old days, maybe I can influence somebody.” In semi-retirement, Saltman is involved with the Tour of California bicycle race, teaches at UC Riverside, and serves on the board of the Kidney Research Association. Recently, after a TV appearance to promote “Fear No Evel,” he said he got a surprise phone call from Matthew Broderick, who thought Saltman would be perfect for a small movie role, which they filmed in a day at the Santa Anita turf club. Another brush with celebrity for a man with a nearly unerring knack for being in the right place at the right time. “It’s all coincidences, all my life,” Saltman said. “Happy ones – except for Knievel.” Kevin Modesti’s column appears in the Daily News three days a week. email@example.com (818) 713-3616 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Shelly Saltman didn’t need to get hit over the head by a junk-sports superstar to realize something is wrong with the celebrity culture he helped create. But coming to in intensive care after a baseball-bat attack by Evel Knievel, the daredevil angered by the Snake River promoter’s tell-all book, would tend to waken new perspective in a man, now, wouldn’t it? “I had a near-death experience,” Saltman said the other day across a deli booth in Woodland Hills. “It molded my future thinking. You look at celebrity in a different way after something like that.” Thirty years ago, Saltman was living in Encino and at the height of his career as a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker, a Massachusetts-born sportscaster turned promoter credited with such diverse entrepreneurial triumphs as Ali-Frazier I, the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs Battle of the Sexes, the Andy Williams San Diego Golf Classic, Osmond Brothers singing tours and the syndication of “Mr.Ed.”