The stewards’ report recounts that: “At the top of the stretch, #13 Ground Force drifts in and brushes #6 Bound By Humor, in tight quarters on the rail.
“Those two continue to race close with light brushing, and inside the sixteenth pole, #6 Bound By Humor, under a left handed crop, shifts out bumping #13 who in turn bumps #12 Wee Freudian on the outside.
“Bound By Humor is turned out with that contact and R. Maragh makes a strong effort to straighten, taking off #13 and finishing to the wire.
“In the judgment of the stewards, the contact between these three horses did not alter the finish of the race. The race was declared Official as is.”
A few observations. In our view, #13 came in slightly at the top of the stretch initiating the contact, and the two indeed proceeded down the lane exchanging bumps. But here’s where it gets a little dicey.
Yes, Maragh did make a strong effort to straighten, but as far as his mount “turning out with the contact,” whose fault was that if not his own, the product of Bound By Honor‘s reacting to the whip?
Maragh doesn’t get points for making an effort to straighten his mount; he’s bound to make an effort to straighten his mount. And where did this leave third finisher Wee Freudian?
On the outside looking in.
Ground Force was “Bumped late and forced into Wee Freudian,” is how the official footnote reported the incident. That’s the way we interpreted the events, too.
And that apparently also was the way that Michael Sternklar saw it. Sternklar, the owner of Wee Freudian, is appealing the non-disqualification.
Now here’s the issue. Wee Freudian, who, ironically, was in an oft-repeated bumping match with Ground Force on the backside, nevertheless was an apparent victim of the non-disqualification.
The #6 and the #13 battled it out in close quarters through the stretch. The #13 started it, but when the #6 retaliated, justified or not, in the rough and tumble incident that he caused, the #12 was compromised.
The stewards ruling concluded that the contact “did not alter the finish of the race.”
That judgment call can be justly argued, but the half length margin between the first and second finisher, and the second and third finisher, probably is what got Maragh off the hook and Bound By Honor the money. Had it been closer, it would have been different--and possibly adjudicated differently.
It’s extremely unlikely that the State Racing and Wagering Board will reverse the stewards ruling, reasoning that the stewards judgment call was the correct one under the circumstances.
Conspiracy theorists, believing that the judges did not want to render a negative decision because $1.2 million of Pick Six money was at stake, actually have it backwards.
A disqualification would have resulted in no one hitting the Pick Six--nine bettors hit the wager for $88,000 each--and given the trend of Pick Six wagering this meet, bettors would have spent about $4 million chasing the carryover.
Saturday night’s non-disqualification had lots of players walking around town scratching their heads saying they couldn't believe that their number wasn't taken down. Those fans and Sternklar both.