Friday, September 13, 2013
Unless Guillot is right, he has done racing wrong
Eric Guillot's allegation that Luis Saez used a battery to urge Will Take Charge to victory in the Travers was still under investigation as this was written. But outside Guillot's circle, there is not a lot of support that the charges, a potential black eye for racing, have merit.
After the initial flurry of stories in the immediate aftermath of allegations by Eric Guillot, trainer of second-place finisher Moreno, that Saez used an electrical device to urge Will Take Charge to victory in the Midsummer Derby, the story has disappeared from the mainstream media, which traditionally lusts for anything that can be turned into a scandal, especially if gambling is involved.
Hopefully, this is not an indication that the non-racing media doesnâ€™t consider racing sufficiently important to commit resources to the story.
Then again, even the racing press has pretty much filed and forgotten Guillotâ€™s charges. A perusal of Equidaily.com, which is to racing what the Drudge Report is to current events, shows only one story among more than a couple dozen on the issue and that is the bottom half of a column by Bill Finley, which furthers the argument that Saez did nothing wrong.
Guillotâ€™s allegations are the most serious since Jose Santos was falsely accused of using a battery on Funny Cide in the 2003 Kentucky Derby.
After extensive investigations established the allegation against Santos had no basis, The Miami Herald, the source of the story, reached a settlement with the Hall of Fame jockey. Reports are the Herald made a payment to Santos ranging from less than a million dollars to as high as $5 million. A confidentiality clause was part of the agreement.
Saez, through his agent, former jockey Richard DePass, has vehemently denied Guillotâ€™s allegations and said he, too, intends to hire an attorney to pursue defamation charges.
A distinction between the Santos and Saez cases is that Guillot is a member of the racing community. If his charges donâ€™t stand up, he has sullied the game that provides his livelihood.
The basis for his complaint, which he made to the New York State Gaming Commission, is something he says his brother noticed while watching the Travers telecast on NBC Sports. According to Guillot, his brother and others, who subsequently looked at a tape, said they saw Saez transfer something from one hand to another during the gallop out, then put it either under the saddle cloth or drop it to the track.
However, no device was found on the track nor under the saddle cloth. A search of Saezâ€™s locker also found nothing amiss.
Guillotâ€™s entourage might be supportive but Iâ€™ve looked at the tape numerous times in slow motion and he had better have more than this. Zooming in on Saezâ€™s hands, there is a lot of motion back and forth, but no clear passing of anything.
Moreover, the mass of hands, whip, reins and Will Take Chargeâ€™s mane makes it impossible to draw a meaningful conclusion unless wishful thinking is involved. The Travers would have been the most significant victory of Guillotâ€™s 20-years-plus career.
More significantly, Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, now a racing analyst for NBC Sports, also scrutinized the tape and said he could see nothing to substantiate Guillotâ€™s allegation. Bailey said from his vantage point the only things in Saezâ€™s hands were his whip and the reins.
Others have pointed out that Saez rapidly switched his stick during the drive, an impossible feat if you are carrying a buzzer.
The video was turned over to New York State Police experts at video analysis. The outcome of their investigation is still pending. However, given the opinions of those with vast expertise in racing, itâ€™s hard to imagine the cops will be able to mount a convincing case. This is not to say there even is a case.
Guillot, known as a loose cannon, also took a crude backhanded whack at D. Wayne Lukas, saying Will Take Chargeâ€™s trainer is past his prime. Of course, he is. The Coach is 78. But even in the homestretch of his life, Lukas won this yearâ€™s Preakness with Oxbow and the Hopeful with Strong Mandate, in addition to the Travers.
Guillot also was quoted as saying, â€śThereâ€™s a lot to leave to the imagination with Wayneâ€™s organization.â€ť
This would be the organization that has won 19 Breedersâ€™ Cup races and 14 Triple Crown events as well as developing trainers such as Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, Dallas Stewart and Mark Hennig. Guillotâ€™s organization has zero Breedersâ€™ Cup and Triple Crown race winners.
If his charge against Saez proves to be as baseless as that against Santos, Guillot deserves to be punished almost as severely for bringing disrepute to the sport as Saez would be if he was to be found guilty. This is beyond any potential punitive monetary damages Guillot would face in a civil suit.
He also would owe all of racing an apology.