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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


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.

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9 Responses

  1. JP–
    Thank you for sticking up for the bettor–as you always do! You are so right that this type of incident needs to be resolved in real time, not days later. And as you point out, look at the amount of $$ that was involved in the place and show pools and the exotics that were impacted by the failure of the stewards to promptly dq Paco’s steed.
    But besides providing a voice for the punters, your column was a delightful read–especially the Abbott and Costello quote!

  2. Abbott and Costello: Life was simpler in the day, then who thought the Cold War would return with such a vengeance?

    One of the first cliches you learn about in life is how absolute power corrupting absolutely. Throw in a little world mental health crisis and here we are.

    Racing’s issues are the proverbial hill of beans here. But this is far from nuclear fissure; not all that difficult to get it right. You want to punish Paco for past transgressions, fine, but send another kind of message, such as probation only.

    Acknowledge that something happened but can’t prove with certitude from the video exactly what happened.

    And you can’t decide in real time that there’s not enough credible evidence to “convict”, then find two weeks worth of “days” after the fact. Classic political overstep and, of course, who needs transparency.?

  3. What exactly does ‘on probation for the rest of the meet’ actually mean? They are going to ban him from the grounds if a claim of foul is upheld against him between now and the end of the meet? It’s kinda funny anyway, considering it’s March 10th, he hasn’t begun serving the 14 day suspension, and the meet is over April 3rd anyhow. It feels like they threw that in the press release to actually make the infraction sound even worse.

  4. Doc,

    The lack of transparency in my view is embarrassing. They should have left the whole thing alone. As stated, would you send someone to the electric chair based on that video?

    You know, had they taken the number routinely after the race, bettors can disagree and chalk it up to the “judgment call.” But this is an admission that we screwed up so we’re doing a little CYA here.

    You would think they’d swallow their pride and own it. Instead, we have a punishment without a probable crime based on credible evidence.

    1. Why does the phrase * Catch and Release* come to mind ???☺️ As noted above,it Really involves lots of different, connected Bet$ and Pool$ … as I’m listening to Steppewolf-s * The Pusher *….

  5. Yes, you hit the nail on the head on every point there. CYA indeed.

    Btw, I still have not had much luck tracking down the Eddie Arcaro Steakhouse that was on Rockaway & N. Conduit. The ad for it in the 1970 Mets game program does even show a phone number. I wonder if there are any sort of archives with property records in one of the Queens branches of the library, though I assume they were tenants and not property owners. I don’t even have the address, so hard to get anything off the NYC DOB portal. I will not give up though until I get some sort of extra info on that place.

  6. A lot more bettors are asking what about their money when these things happen, and the Derby, I bet Mandaloun, who now has won, no money for me. I think this business better start worrying about the people who bet, because if they knew certain things they would never bet a horse race. When are we going to clean this mafia mess up? Everybody is out of control, jockeys, trainers, management all felons for what they have done and are continuing to do. Sincerely Kat

    1. Agree that the actions of too many in this business is indefensible, Kat.

      That’s why I continue calling for independent oversight. Yes, I know HISA is supposed to begin in July, but this is horse racing…

      And there’s plenty of lobbying by horsemen’s groups against its implementation.

      Sadly, hope and faith are not enough.

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