HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, March 9, 2022 — The following press release arrived in my inbox at 4:29 PM:
“Gulfstream Park stewards announced Wednesday jockey Paco Lopez has been suspended 14 race days for careless riding in Saturday’s Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) and has been placed on probation through the remainder of the Championship Meet.
“Associate Steward Stephen DiMauro added details were being worked out as to when Lopez would begin serving his days.
“Furthermore, to better serve the stewards and customers, Gulfstream Park officials announced Wednesday that additional cameras would be added and installed in the near future to provide better views of each race on dirt, turf and Tapeta.”
So, new cameras will be installed “to provide better views of each race…”
So the view of the incident wasn’t good enough, is that what we’re saying here?
If a rider is guilty of careless riding and benefits from reckless tactics, the horse should be disqualified on the spot. He was not.
Lopez rode In Due Time to a second place finish, a race in which High Oak clipped heels and fell, causing a trailing horse, Galt, to fall over High Oak. It is also unclear what role A.P.s Secret played in the accident.
What option, then, do rival horsemen have in this case? Who exactly was bothered? Was there any pressure from outside horses which contributed to putting all the leading horses in dangerously close quarters?
We will never know.
As for the bettors, what about the $2,028,890 bet in the straight pools; win, place, and show ? [Win was not at issue].
But what about $1,067,880 bet in exactas that included third finisher O Captain, who should have been elevated above the horse whose jockey rode carelessly enough to be suspended 14 days?
What about the $653,428 that included fourth finisher Emmanuel in their trifecta wagers?
What about bettors who used Dean Delivers in the superfecta, a pool amassing $371,547 in handle.
And what about the $18,029 wagered in the Super Hi 5 who thought that Rattle N Roll should at least finish fifth, or the $18,886 wagered in the quinella?
The Paco incident needed to be adjudicated in real time, not retro-fitted into a palatable public relations model four days after the fact.
When Irad Ortiz Jr. was handed a 30-day suspension for two separate incidents in New York last year, anyone who watched those races knew who the victims were.
How can the Florida stewards–who we believed did the right thing by not taking action because the video evidence, dubious at best, was inconclusive–take this action 96 hours after the race was run?
Did Lopez definitively cause the heels-clipping incident? If he did, why was there no claim of foul? It’s not like Lopez has a ton of friends in the jocks’ room looking to shield his repitation.
Once again, bettors were treated as if they don’t matter: Open the accounts and they will bet.
The stewards think they did the right thing Wednesday by suspending Lopez 14 days and putting him on probation for the balance of the championship meet. All they did was give racing another black eye.
The stewards accommodated the guilty party by stating they will “work out when Lopez will begin serving his days.” But there is no accommodations for the victims; owners, trainers, jockeys, and bettors who were Fountain of Youth participants.
The Fountain of Youth was involved in 14 different betting pools. The purse was guaranteed at $400,000. Horseplayers bet a total of $7,705,840 on the Grade 2 stakes.
So what about those wagers? There’s nothing about those wagers. It’s the old Abbott and Costello routine: “They’re Off, You Lose.” And when the betting stops, the house bends over and scoops up the cash.