Pricci's Saratoga Diary
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Friday, September 03, 2010

Terrible Disqualification in Today’s Fifth Race


September 3, 2010--

Dear Diary,

The new system that New York has been using for adjudicating fouls, if the results of today’s fifth race are a measure, is a complete failure.

Never mind that the new transparency provision whereby the stewards explain their rationale via closed-circuit television for all to see is the equivalent of “because we said so.”

These supposed teachable moments have been, in the main, an embarrassing waste of time. They don’t inform, much less instruct. But that’s beside the point.

For the last several years, the stewards have been given latitude to adjudicate fouls, no longer just strict keepers of the running lanes. For the last several years, it’s been the spirit of the law that mattered, and not just the letter.

If, in the stewards’ view, the infraction cost the impeded horse a placing, the transgressor would be disqualified. If not, if there were no harm, there would be no foul.

Such was the case in yesterday’s fifth race, but the “winner” was wrongly disqualified, anyway.

Did first-time starting Palooza drift out in front of the path of runnerup Overseas Market? Unquestionably. Was any harm done?

Absolutely not.

Where is the common sense, the fact that it was an unraced two-year-old filly that was the culprit?

Forget that co-leading rider Javier Castellano does not have the reputation of a rough or reckless jockey. If he has been, I never heard that. Ever.

And forget, too, that Castellano tried his best, to no avail, admittedly, to keep a straight course with his young, green mount.

But what’s worse, Pelican Lake, the very controversial non take-down on August 6, was far more egregious, that horse practically knocking over a rival while altering course because he was trapped. You're not supposed to bull your way out of a hole, but Pelican Lake did just that.

This clearly wasn’t the case in today’s fifth race. The filly drifted, yes. She “altered course,” according to the printed explanation.

But what was the actual reason for the disqualification? Did it cost Oversees Market the win? Absolutely not, the minor incident having occurred in the shadow of the wire.

Did it cost Oversees Market, in a head to head battle with Simply Delightful for the place, a money position? Certainly not.

So then why the disqualification? For altering course? Horses alter course in races all the time. Castellano certainly didn’t appear to be seeking an unfair advantage.

The biggest crime is that the incident occurred right in front of the stands.

The non disqualification of Pelican Lake and the disqualification of Palooza, when played as mirror images, indicate just how radically inconsistent the New York stewards are.

And in this game that’s the worst thing you could say about any official.

Written by John Pricci

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