In this week’s episode of how to make the game better, we only need return to a few weeks ago when, after a couple of tough stewards’ calls, my judgment of what constitutes a foul changed.

For various and sundry reasons. I now believe a foul is a foul. Race riding is out of control and somebody is going to get hurt, or worse.

My evolution was underscored yesterday as the tote board lights were blinking in Bensalem: The beef was between Cotillion favorite Monomoy Girl and runnerup Midnight Bisou, the field’s other two-turn Grade 1 winner.

The issue was affirmed when veteran TVG analysts Mike Joyce and Kurt Hoover, while voicing-over continual head-on replays of the incident--agreed that it could go either way (each believed the result should stand) but were as baffled as the viewers.

“It depends on how they interpret the rules in Pennsylvania, I’m not sure,” said Joyce. Hoover wasn’t sure either sure—and that made three of us.

The point is everyone, including knowledgeable veterans, isn’t sure what the parameters are at every track. Offensive holding isn’t any different in Pennsylvania than it is in Florida. Neither should what is permitted in racing.


Time has come for the Association of Racing Commissioners International to step up and insure that rules and regulations are fair and equitable throughout the 38 racing jurisdictions.

The ARCI is legally charged with the responsibility to ensure the integrity of racing and pari-mutuel wagering. It is the “mechanism for collective policy formation…integrity advocacy and the development of reforms…”

This is not an issue that requires further study. Everybody knows what a horse racing is and should be about; equanimity, fairness and reasonable expectations about what process looks like everywhere.

As a follow-up to press releases, some action might be nice, especially in light of the multi-jurisdictional nature of a supposed regulated sport. Is efficiency and effectiveness, the reason it exists too much to ask?

With respect to the Cotillion, the Pennsylvania stewards are to be commended for making a gutsy call. It was a million-dollar race, a Grade 1, and there was no contact. But there was plenty of herding and intimidation.

I can’t get inside the race-riding head of Florent Geroux on the leader, Monomoy Girl. But he allowed his filly to drift out, then in, directly in front Midnight Bisou beneath Mike Smith, then out again, carrying them even wider.

Given that the margin of victory was a decreasing neck, it was reasonable for the stewards to decide that the zig-zagging nature of Monomoy Girl’s and Geroux’s trip cost the runner-up outright victory.

McKinzie Returns in a Big Way

With the help of Smith, the bay son of Derby-winning Street Sense overcame a light bottom-side pedigree and a 196-day layoff to win the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:52.05 over a very dull Parx surface.

Rapidly developing runner-up Axelrod was a strong finishing second, 7-1/2 lengths ahead of 81-1 third finisher Trigger Warning. Both horses should continue their forward progression from the Pa Derby efforts.

As good as they were, the rest of the field performed poorly. Hofburg, second choice at 5-2 behind the winning 2-1 favorite, raced very wide on a track that played well to that trip but probably was better off without the blinkers.

Core Beliefs was a one-paced fifth, showing he remains a cut or two below Grade 1 class and the long season finally might have caught up with Bravazo. Mr. Freeze and Instilled Regard were awful in light of expectations.
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Undercard Overachievers

Firenze Fire continues to cut back in distance and continues to win, taking the six furlong G3 Gallant Bob over a determined and savage Whereshetoldmetogo by a neck. Seven Trumpets was a solid, tough trip third. As for the winner, BC Dirt Mile or Sprint would be next.

Despite its usurious takeout rates, Parx handled $8.3 million from all sources on the 13-race program…Bob Baffert won his second straight Pa Derby and third overall but Collected was terrible in his return… Unsurprisingly, Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro each scored a training double.

Chad Brown, Man of Renown

Brown made big news yesterday at Belmont Park by losing two of the seven races he entered. He might have saddled six winners had it not been for Sweet August Lady’s tough trip placing in the ninth. He eased the agony of defeat by taking both stakes.

Uni was very impressive taking the G3 Noble Damsel under very confident handling from Joel Rosario, remaining undefeated in three starts going one mile in turf. “I was only a passenger, she did all the work,” Rosario said.

It sure looked that way as she drew off with a final quarter-mile in 23.47.

Don’t know if Patternrecognition’s score in the G2 Kelso was good enough to rate a major Dirt Mile role but the handy speedster might be effective on the turnback if the connections go that way. Nice problem to have.

Then this barn is so embarrassingly rich in talent that long range plans might include the NYRA Mile instead. ‘Pattern’ got away soft with a 23.77 opening gambit and came home faster: 23.34. The mile ended a snappy 1:34.16.

Laurel Fall Festival Another Uptick for TSG

Off a record-setting Gulfstream season and with soon-to-reopen Santa Anita showing some upward mobility, Laurel killed it Saturday as its special big fall program topped by the G3 DeFrancis Dash was up 35% from 2017 at $5M.

That’s what full fields will get you, especially those replete with turf sprinters. It’s a formula that not only as worked by has been emulated anywhere and everywhere the horse population and sensible scheduling supports it.

On the racetrack, Switzerland more than made up for his Saratoga flop as he went to the front and literally improved his position, running the DeFrancis field off its feet in a never threatened 1:09.11, giving rider Feargal Lynch a stakes triple.

Good job all around, including Fire Key’s upset in the Sensible Lady Turf Dash, shipping down from New York for trainer Pat Kelly. Hard-hitting sprinter benefitted from a contested pace and deft Julien Pimentel handling for the nose victory.