Race of the Week 2017

Hold All Tickets

Will Take Charge wins 2014 Oaklawn Handicap
Photo: Coady Photography


We've all been on both sides of an inquiry or objection. Sometimes it's our horse that caused the trouble and other times our horse was on the receiving end. In either case we stare at the replay as it rewinds and plays over and over again. What might only take a few minutes seems like hours.

Everyone has an opinion on the matter and most of the time a case can be made for or against the alleged foul and therein lies the problem. The rules for what justifies a disqualification are often very subjective. Sure there are times when a horse drifts out five paths or a jockey strikes another horse with his whip but most of the time it's not clear cut.

This puts immense pressure on the three stewards, who have a thankless job. No matter the decision many people will be upset because their decision can alter the distribution of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to horseplayers, owners and trainers.

A few recent examples illustrate this perfectly.

Oaklawn Handicap

Over $1.3M was bet on the Oaklawn Handicap alone. Several hundred thousand dollars were bet on multi-race bets that included the race.  $600,000 of purse money was distributed to the top six finishers.

Will Take Charge, the 2/5 favorite crossed the line first but not before drifting in badly during the final furlong.  After watching the replay a few times I thought there was a chance he would be disqualified because he appeared to impede several horses when he drifted in, but it wasn't a slam dunk.

This was one of those situations where it could go either way and in the end the stewards decided to leave the order of finish alone. As mentioned above this decision impacted the distribution of over $2M between the money bet and the purse of the race.

Personally I was happy with the decision as I selected Will Take Charge in the Derby Wars $50K game but thousands of other horseplayers that selected or bet on the runner-up were not happy.

Gulfstream Park Rainbow 6 DQ

A similar financial impact occurred a few weeks ago at Gulfstream.  The final race of the day had three horses that would trigger a $1.6M payout in the Rainbow 6. When one of them went gate to wire there was one extremely happy horseplayer waiting for the official sign to be posted.

Unfortunately as most you know the stewards decided to disqualify the winner for interfering with the runner-up in the stretch.  Immediately conspiracy theorists voiced their opinion that the track wanted the Rainbow 6 jackpot to continue to grow so they told the stewards to disqualify the horse.

This rumor was disproved in the days to follow but the fact is the decision to disqualify the horse was a tough call.  I'm glad I wasn't responsible for making the decision because a case could be made either way. Had this been a regular day without a seven figure score on the line it would've been talked about briefly but forgotten by the next day.

Disqualification Parameters

These two incidents beg the question of what should constitute a disqualification?  In the U.S. any horse can be disqualified for interference while in some foreign countries a horse can only be disqualified if it cost the other horse the win.

Which is the better way to go? This again is tough because millions of dollars are bet everyday on vertical wagers (exacta, trifecta, superfecta and Super High 5). Is it fair to leave a horse up if it costs another horse third or fourth place? On the flip side is it fair to disqualify a ten length winner for bumping a horse leaving the gate or during the race?

Personally I believe in leaving the results stand unless there is a blatant and intentional foul. Bumping occurs in every race and most disqualification occur for fouls in the stretch but shouldn't the whole race be treated equally? My vote would be to follow the rule for some foreign racing jurisdictions and only disqualify a winner if the horse it interfered with was cost the win.

Explanations Please

Regardless of the decision a thorough explanation should be provided for any inquiry or objection.  Some tracks have started doing this by letting the track announcer explain the decision while the replay is being played on the simulcast feed.  We need all tracks to do this.

Additionally it would do a world of good to produce a detail written report for each of these incidences and to post them on the tracks website.  Taking it a step further and following the lead of the Hong Kong stewards why not publish a daily report to include every race.  In Hong Kong jockeys are fined and suspended even when no claim of foul is lodged.  Specifically jockeys can be punished for not riding a horse with the intent of winning.  We have all seen jockeys here give up late and get nosed out of third or fourth costing us money and the owner and trainer of the horse money.

Respect the Stewards

As I said I don't envy the job of the stewards because they can't please everyone.  I also know that in the long run things will even out and the disqualifications or lack thereof will work in your favor as often as they work against you.  With the additional transparency that has come out of the Rainbow 6 disqualification and with a little more transparency we can stop wondering why a decision was made.  While it might not take the hurt out of losing a bet it will help you move onto the next race with the confidence that the decision made was the best judgement of the stewards without any outside influences.


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Older Comments about Hold All Tickets...

the most egregious example of a bad call was the disqualification of tight spot in the del mar derby in this case the case actually went to court and the stewards were reversed the purse money was redistributed but that was no consolation for those of us with mutuel tickets
They request various video views from us, look at them over and over, then take a simple vote. The LONGER they talk the more likely a DQ unless it is so overt NO ONE could miss it....i.e. Marfa the mugger for example or old Gate Dancer's ongoing antics
you will be sorely disappointed as they are fairly standard.
As bettor I want a universal standardization of decision criteria, consistency in application, and transparency. KEE does a good job of posting the steward ‘s DQ thought process on their web site. Most tracks do not.
That big thing Will should have been kept wide. In this race, he was, as they say, much the best. I hate rain(in other cases loonies) and any interference in big stakes. Awaiting the underneath, from behind, satellite views.
I guess people will see what they want to see. I went back and looked at the video very carefully. This is what I saw. GL and WTC were leaning against each other entering the stretch. Revolutionary was looking for room between GL and RTV but the hole was closing, so he bumped GL to force his way through and caused him to steady. He then shifted in a little, and so did WTC, who had almost cleared him, making the hole between himself and RTV pretty tight and causing Revolutionary to wait for just a tad. WTC then straightened his path and there was enough room for Revolutionary to go through, but RTV carried him out. It was then, and only then that WTC, who was well clear of GL, veered in. Revolutionary was already on a wider path than WTC when that happened. IMO, the stewards made the right call. It wasn't a close one at all.
THREE independent sources all describe ONE colt being "taken up" (the third in the seires of steadied, checked, taken up for compaison) and the other was "bothered." Rest my case.
or BRIS net desribed it Thus: Saez got busy with the right-handed whip and Will Take Charge drifted straight toward the rail and straight into Golden Lad. Jockey Gary Stevens took up on Golden Lad as Revolutionary to his inside leaned in at that exact moment. Will Take Charge continued his inward path to bother Revolutionary a bit before finally hitting the wire to stop the clock in 1:49 2/5 for nine furlongs on Oaklawn Park's fast main track.
and check out the DEGREE of problem Mike Smith descirbed and he was a tad closer to the action than any on us. QUOTE: Smith said he thought the issue was an even call. "My horse ran really great," he said. "He [Will Take Charge] came over a little bit. I had to wait. I would have liked to see what the outcome was [otherwise] because I only got beat [three-quarters of a length], and two jumps past the wire I was in front. It was a 50-50 call and I understand that. It was a judgment call and it just didn't go my way."
drectly from the Pawlick report...Do you see mention of Revolutionary??? Quote: Golden Lad through the first half-mile of the 1 1/8 mile test. He then launched his challenge on the outside of the six-horse field as they turned for home. He first brushed with Golden Lad, ridden by Stevens, and drifted in nearing their eighth pole as they traveled along in 1:11 3/5. Through the final furlong, Will Take Charge received strong right-handed urging from Saez while battling with Revolutionary with Smith aboard until crossing under the wire in 1:49 3/5 and three-quarters of a length in from of his rival. Carve was another half-length back under Jesus Castanon to take third.
Let me borrow those Rose COlored Glasses so I can see what wasn't there before
I didn't see any reason to take down WTC. If anyone should've come down, it would've been Revolutionary. Those who had a WTC/Carve exacta were robbed. WTC and GL were leaning against each other entering the stretch. WTC moved up about half a length on GL when Revolutionary came out and squeezed GL, causing his jockey to check. It was only after GL steadied that WTC came in, but he didn't interfere with Revolutionary, who veered in on his own after having bumped GL, not in response to WTC veering in. Had Revolutionary stayed on a straight path, then perhaps he would've been interfered with by WTC. That's what I saw anyway.
the 6 was almost knocked off his feet and wound up last. Can not be any more blatant than that and rules of racing is that you go BEHIND the horse with which you interfered.
I sturdied to be a steward years back..I feel it has to be blatant and HAS to interfere with another horse winning with I bad bump ..Hit or drift in to cause the other horse to break stride or take up sharply just common sense prevails
Here's my take on it, having watched both views at least 20 times while the stewards were deliberating. WTC gets to GL and they do rub. The head-on view shows two things clearly: 1. GL turns his head to the the outside and attempting to veer towards WTC, but WTC is so much heavier and powerful that he doesn't budge. 2. WTC does veer slightly to the inside, but very little. This is verified by looking at the perfectly straight tractor grate marks in the dirt. Will only moves to the inside for about 3 to 4 grate lines, and those lines are only 2-3 inches apart. During this, GL is not being slowed-down. Just as WTC clears GL, Revolutionary decides to quickly veer outside over 4-6 feet and multiple grate lines. This causes Rev's hind end to brush the nose of GL, and Gary Stevens checks him quite sharply. As WTC clears others he begins to move to the inside without disturbing anyone. Rev and GL are both trained by the same trainer and the winner's share of 600 large was at stake. Everyone knows that WTC is my favorite and will think I'm just taking-up for my boy, but that's the way I saw it. If and when the front tower view ever hits the net, folks can view and agree or disagree. The only thing I know for fact is...the stewards agreed.
yes and HE was acutally there expereinceing it too. YOU only get to see the pan shot......The Apex or front tower are needed to get perspective as to what happens laterally as well as longitundinally
I like the chart. At least there's one other on the planet that realized Rev forced GL to check in mid-stretch. Funny how Gary Stevens didn't object to that.
read the chart
Revolutionary interferes with Golden Lad way more than WTC did. I wonder what the interference perception would be if Will were trained by Baffert, Mott, or Shug?

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