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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Two news items announced earlier this week encapsulated recent racing commentary regarding adjudication of riding infractions, a development that has become as much a part of the 2023 Saratoga race meet as the dramatic racetrack victories posted by returning champions.

On Monday, it was learned that the brothers Ortiz, Irad Jr. and Jose,  would each serve three-day suspensions from August 9 through August 11 for separate “careless riding” incidents earlier at this meet.

Also making news, but still an unknown,  is the present condition of British jockey Richard Mullen after he sustained injuries from being unseated from prohibitive favorite Rebel’s Romance on Sunday.

What has been reported thus far is that Mullen suffered “a broken collarbone, thumb, ribs and three fractured vertebrae.” Anyone who witnessed the race knows that it could have been worse.

While these were unrelated incidents, the common thread is what can happen when safe riding finishes second to a win-at-all-costs tactics.

And this is not about assessing blame to jockeys but rather to the vague rules governing their actions resulting in inconsistent adjudication.

We recently railed against a lack of transparency, which is something the industry claims is important to them. Well, consider what happened in the Grade 2 Bowling Green:

I saw the Mullen incident on the Saratoga Live cablecast of the 11-furlong turf marathon. Here is an edited version of the official Equibase result chart:

“TAWNY PORT … was asked for speed between horses on the final turn, had REBEL’S ROMANCE clip heels at the five-sixteenths … SOLDIER RISING … bumped very hard with Rebel’s Romance after than rival clipped heels at the five-sixteenths … REBEL’S ROMANCE … clipped heels midway through the final turn, stumbled badly then was bumped hard while losing the rider … “

My issue is that I could not verify or dispute the trackman’s observations because when I consulted two reliable replay platforms, I was informed, “video for the race is unavailable.”


Tuesday was not the first time I’ve encountered this message, but this time I can surmise why.

Many tracks, New York Racing Association venues included, show truncated, editor-sanitized replays in the immediate aftermath of a race in which there was an accident. Shielding neophytes from hard-to-watch video is fair, understandably.

Casual racing fans seldom if ever watch race replays, much less delve into official chart footnotes. But the connections, serious fans, and bettors of the horses above e.g., are entitled to review replays of the race as often as they please.

Burying the replay of a Grade 2 stakes–or any race for that matter–of interest to owners, serious fans and horseplayers is inexcusable. Apparently, transparency is a 12-letter which, when invoked, is little more than part of the prevailing spin.

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8 Responses

  1. It’s gotten to the point when going to view the replays of races, if I see that the race is “unavailable”, I know that there was a spill.

    1. I don’t encounter it all that often, thinking technical difficulties perhaps. But when I see that advisory again, I’ll be sure to check the official footnotes.
      Do you know what’s implied in this little exchange we have Les? That apparently neither one of us has any great confidence that the transparency flap will be remedied.
      As handicappers studying PPs, what else are we to think?

  2. You’re correct John. When I see that a replay isn’t shown, I immediately go the Equibase chart to read a description of what happened. In the case of Saturday’s Bowling Green, I was watching the race live (weren’t we all) and was able to rewind to see what occurred. It’s important for all of us who love this game to know, as soon as possible, the condition of the horse and jockey involved. We know that this can be a dangerous sport at times, and we all hold our collective breaths during the big races and hope nothing bad happens as the casual consumer may also be watching. For the regular horse racing fan and player, we must have that transparency you have stated on a daily basis.

  3. C’mon John, with all of your experience, you should know where to find those replays – under the rug!

    1. Wish I could laugh about it. Tink. If you can bet on a race virtually anywhere, replays should be available virtually everywhere. It’s more than just a matter of convenience.

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