Double taxation, increased takeout, admission, parking, and
concessions are all things draining patrons’ pockets at most race tracks. I
understand the cost on most things go up over time, but when race tracks’ arch
rival, riverboat casinos, offer most of these things for free (and don’t
increase takeout), race fans are at a competitive disadvantage before getting to their seats. But
when those (stewards) who are supposed to make sure races are run in a
forthright manner don’t do their job, is when I start to have a beef with the
game I love almost more than anything.
On Saturday, Belmont Park played host to the Grade II Sheepshead Bay Stakes consisting of well-matched female turf marathoners. #1 Mystical Star was seen as an outsider being sent off at $15.40-1 in the 9 horse field.
Once everyone loaded in the gate, Mystical Star reared and broke through the
gate a fraction of a second before the starter opened the gates, spotting the
field 10-15 lengths. The assistant starter for #2 Magical Cat held her reign
not allowing her to run with the rest of the field. Once she was allowed to
proceed, all hope was lost and jockey, John Velasquez pulled Magical Cat up
before reaching the first turn of their 1 3/8 miles journey.
On the final turn, Mystical Star had miraculously clawed her
way back into the race. Down the stretch she showed a ton of grit as she fought
gamely to finish 3rd, only ½ length behind runner up, Hit It Rich.
After crossing the wire, the “Inquiry” sign was displayed & it looked as if
the #1 & #2 would be declared non-starters and refunds made. #2 Magical Cat
was declared a non-starter for being held back by the assistant starter &
thus having an unfair disadvantage. However, #1 Mystical Star was disqualified
and placed last for breaking through the gate & getting an advantageous head start, even
though she was 10-15 lengths behind everyone in the early stages. WHAT!?!
According to the Belmont Park stewards from NYRA website:
I understand that Mystical Star should be disqualified since
her gate opened early, but why not declare her a non-starter? Contrary to the
stewards’ opinions, Mystical Star was at a huge disadvantage, even though her
gate opened before her competitors. The only difference in Mystical Star being
placed last or declared a non-starter are the gamblers who bet their hard
earned money are getting the short end of the stick (to put it nicely). Is it
too much to ask for a little common sense to prevail? Actually, The NY State Racing & Wagering Board even has a rule allowing for common sense, but it’s too bad the people
in charge of upholding the rules don’t know them.
Just when I thought stewards’ bad decisions (or lack thereof)
were done for the day, along came the 4th race at Los Alamitos
Saturday night. The 4th was like any normal 300-yard quarter horse
race, until the gates opened, or did they? #6 MTC Ain’t He Cool broke sharply
inward and appeared to impede #3, #4 & #5. MTC Ain’t He Cool went on to
win, but not without the “Inquiry” sign being flashed by the stewards. After
further review, #6 made no contact with #3, #4 & #5 and was declared the
winner, but during the head-on replay it is obvious #5 Rhythmontherun’s gate
did not open at the same time as the other runners.
Again, it seemed like a no
brainer to declare #5 a non-starter and refund all wagers on him. Instead he
checked in last of 9, and the chart writer’s comment said “off very slow, bumped start.” Apparently he/she didn’t watch the race either, or maybe the
chart writer is a steward. Multiple voicemails were left with the Los Alamitos
media relations department looking for comment on the matter, but no return
call was made. Also, the California Horse Racing Board was contacted, but
they are closed until Tuesday due to the Memorial Day holiday. Therefore, I’m
not sure if the stewards just missed this one or if they were too lazy to
declare him a non-starter and refund all wagers. Either way someone needs to be
held accountable for the poor performance of stewards throughout the year,
which costs gamblers millions of dollars annually. The same gamblers that are
the only reason this game exists. Race tracks are about the only place where
the customers DO NOT come first, but tracks won’t have to worry about that much
longer as they continue to lose business by not gaining new fans. What a shocker.
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