Stewards make some interesting and inconsistent decisions. When you have subjective rules like if it cost another horse a better placing, or a chance at a better placing, and did it affect the outcome, you leave the door open for disagreement and argument. One could argue a foul always costs a horse a “chance” at a better placing. It is not nearly definitive enough. We all can usually agree if a foul occurred, and years ago a foul meant a disqualification. People complained about horses being disqualified when it had no impact on the outcome and that is indeed frustrating. That lead to the current rules most jurisdictions operate under which allow discretion by the stewards as described above. That morphed into most out of the gate incidents not even being looked at when any horseman knows a gate incident can have a significant impact on a race. Back in the day there were far fewer left and right turns out of the gate because they were indeed subject to disqualification.
In the San Felipe yesterday at Santa Anita McKinzie finished first by a nose in a gritty, determined and game effort over an equally tough Bolt d’ Oro. Both horses ran huge races and distanced themselves from the rest of the field in a roughly run race. Turning for home Bolt d’ Oro under Javier Castellano who was replacing Corey Nakatani on the Mick Ruis trained colt came up outside and alongside of McKinzie and Mike Smith. Javier made it tight for Mike but Mike didn’t give in and they bumped some where both horses were a tad at fault with Javier and Bolt d’ Oro maybe a smidge more aggressive. As they neared the wire under a left handed stick by Mike Smith McKinzie came out 2-3 paths and herded Bolt d’ Oro a few paths wide. Bolt d’ Oro had the whole stretch to get by McKinzie but couldn’t do it. Clearly a foul occurred and it took the stewards a curiously long time to come to what they called a unanimous decision disqualifying McKinzie and declaring Bolt d’ Oro the winner. Discussions erupted on social media with many knowledgeable horsemen and bettors on both sides of the fence. This is exactly why we need to go back to the definitive system and remove the subjectivity and discretion. A foul should result in a disqualification. In this case under the present rules and consistent with many prior rulings the result should have stood. It was not definitive that the bumping which occurred cost Bolt d’ Oro the race and if it did cost him that long nose he got beat by, one could argue McKinzie lost as much turning for home when crowded by Javier.
Interestingly McKinzie, trained by Bob Baffert was handed a Grade 1 victory in the Los Alamitos Derby when Solomini also trained by Bob Baffert was disqualified in an incident where McKinzie was as guilty if not more so than Solomini was. Personally I think the stewards blew both these calls. Bob Baffert expressed frustration after yesterday’s decision and in the heat of the moment said he might ship McKinzie for his next start and these things leave a bad taste. He is correct about the bad taste which extends to any bettor who played McKinzie. The game needs less subjectivity and firmer rules which will force consistency.
It seems while there were a lot of people upset and even angry about the decision Javier and Mike remained true professionals about the whole situation. Warriors on the battlefield and comrades off of it.
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