Two days of spectacular Thoroughbred racing culminated with the $5,000,000 Breeders’ Classic. Fourteen horses went post-ward with high hopes of being a Classic winner. The fans spread the odds for their likelihood of winning between 2-1 and 60-1. With horses like Texas Red winning the Juvenile at odds of 13.90-1 and Take Charge Brandi at 70-1, anything seemed possible.
The pace was quick with Bayern setting the pace of 46:44 and 110:16 for the first half mile. The other twelve followed. Moreno the other expected pacesetter was absent. Bayern came out of the gate and made a sharp left turn which resulted in a Stewards’ inquiry after the race. As they went into the clubhouse turn, the field was spread out with Bayern on the lead with Shared Belief, Cigar Street, Tonalist and Zivo bringing up the rear.
Down the backstretch the first two positions remained constant. California Chrome, Cigar Street, Moreno and Shared Belief were in pursuit.
The field compressed as they entered the far turn. The mile was run in 134:16; fast for the mile and quarter distance. The California crowd roared as California Chrome moved on the leaders at the eighth pole—Bayern and Toast of New York.
Down the stretch it was a three horse race with Bayern holding on under the test by Toast of New York as California Chrome tried to make it a three horse photo finish. It finished in a time of 159:88 as it started at the top of the stretch. Then the Stewards’ Inquiry Sign was posted. What seemed like a life-time, fans waited hoping for different outcome? Then it came. No Change in the order of finish.
Although many in crowd were unhappy with the decision which they thought was politically motivated, their displeasure was clearly a matter of not understanding the Stewards’ rules. There are at least two basic rule sets for Stewards to use and each can be modified by the regulatory body for the jurisdiction in which the race is held. One disqualifies a horse if his/her behavior any time during the race interfered with or obstructed the racing of another horse, regardless of his finishing or likely finishing position. The second, does so only if the infraction affected the finish of the race or the three betting interests in the race. It appears the Stewards felt the infraction by Bayern fit into the latter category.
Although many were disappointed with the decision they need to remember the Stewards have other rules at their disposal to apply. The horse/jockey behavior may affect the purse distribution which usually comes days, if not weeks, after the race — albeit, too late to affect the pari-mutual pay-offs. They can determine that the infraction was directly caused by a jockey’s behavior and can penalize the jockey and/or the trainer with fines or days off from racing or both. Again, action that comes too late to affect the pari-mutual pay-offs. In short, Stewards have multiple levels of responsibility to the public, racing, trainers, jockeys, fans and especially pari-mutual player. We must not confuse their action on one to be a ignoring of the other.
Hours after the race fans as they were leaving could be overheard discussing the inquiry ruling. Although the announcer clearly explained the decision, he never adequately explained the rule and the reasoning behind the decision by the California Stewards. For the benefit of the fan and the sport, a better approach is needed.