The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation has released a new white paper. The only problem is that the well intentioned treatise tries to have it both ways.
First, it let Kentucky Derby stewards off the hook, Thoroughbred Idea Foundation executive director Pat Cummings explained: “Make no mistake, the stewards made the appropriate decision in light of the rules as they exist today in Kentucky…
Then, “there is still far more to be done to get us on the right track with a more consistent standard for adjudicating races.”
There’s nothing objectionable with the above. And we fully support the notion that incidents related to racing should be handled in a transparent fashion. But “particularly in light of the oversights apparent in the process of demoting Maximum Security in the 2019 Kentucky Derby?”
So it would have been OK for the stewards to make a bad call as long as they explain their reasoning to the public?
What this really is about is policy, and we agree further that adopting an international standard is the way to go. Exactly, as long as the issue is not raceday medication!
The international foul adjudication standard states that a horse can be demoted only if it prevented the fouled horse from winning the race. The current American standard is that a horse can be disqualified if it cost the fouled runner a better placing relative to the order of finish.
As we have stated at HRI before, the real problem is incompetency, not the rule.
The topic was discussed at last week’s annual Jockey Club Round Table conference in Saratoga Springs and a guest speaker cited the Derby as an example, the lecturer noting that Maximum Security did not cost another rival victory. Sorry, but he could not know that.
Eventual Preakness winner War of Will came scooting up the fence entering the far turn, tipped outside midturn and was inching closer to Maximum Security at that juncture.
Soon after entering the straight, a recovered War of Will made a second run that brought him on near even terms with Maximum Security despite the huge loss of momentum at a critical stage.
Who can say with certitude that he would not have beaten Maximum Security with a clear, unimpeded run? My guess is victory would have been highly unlikely. But I don’t know that, and neither does anyone else. That’s why we agreed with the stewards’ demotion because other horses were affected as well.
It would have been far better had the stewards been wired for sound, and explained to millions of viewers, gamblers, and fans what their considerations were that led to their decision.
There’s absolutely no excuse for a lack of transparency. If tracks cannot afford to turn the stewards stand into a remote studio, the very least they could do is compel them to issue a signed fully comprehensive report after every race, openly posted for review by interested stakeholders.
Stewards’ reports in states where they already exist vary widely in quality and detail. Pre-determined standards and process must be followed to the letter with respect to race adjudication and penalties.
An official that consistently errs should be subject to serious fines and suspensions; termination if necessary based on the egregiousness of the error or breach of protocols.
The problem with the international demotion standard is that it is unjust and would result in more careless race riding. If an incident caused by a much-the-best five-length winner cost a rival better money placing, why shouldn’t the transgressor be placed behind that rival?
What if the “clearly best winner” cost the rival he bothered second money because that horse lost a tight place photo?
The international standard fails to level a playing field. It does not make the game better. Of much greater significance, it doesn’t make a dangerous sport any safer.
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