Larry Jones’ I’m a Chatterbox landed herself another impressive win in the July 16 Delaware Handicap, but despite the decisive win, the victory is not without controversy.
At the start of the race I’m a Chatterbox, who broke from post position four, ducked in sharply. In doing so, she impeded the three-horse (Milaya), which cause a chain reaction that affected second betting choice Paid Up Subscriber.
The scene was not a pretty one and put all involved behind the eight ball, including I’m a Chatterbox.
Despite the hairy beginning, Paid Up Subscriber and I’m a Chatterbox managed to recover before the first quarter was complete. After the first call, I’m a Chatterbox was second, just a head off the leader, while Paid Up Subscriber sat a comfortable fourth, just two and a half lengths behind.
The other two mares involved in the starting gate fiasco never managed to recover. Milaya finished second to last, beaten 21 lengths, while Money’soncharlotte finished sixth and last, beaten by 25 lengths.
In the end, I’m a Chatterbox won by a decisive 2 ¼ lengths from Paid Up Subscriber. She left little doubt that she was the best filly in the race. However, due to the chain reaction she caused at the start of the race, there are still those who question the stewards’ decision to leave her up, instead of disqualifying her.
Al Stall, trainer of Paid Up Subscriber, wasn’t pleased with the lack of action taken by the officials.
“I always thought the race begins out of the starting gate. [Paid Up Subscriber’s] rear end got knocked out from underneath her and it was clearly started by the number four horse [I’m a Chatterbox].”
Winning trainer Larry Jones was more diplomatic about the incident.
“It did look like the one-horse [Paid Up Subscriber] was trying to come out a little as well. It was not pretty a start. It reminded me of the  Breeders’ Cup Classic.”
Jones noted that his filly also had to overcome adversity due to the less than stellar beginning.
“We were down in and behind horses too. With as much as she won by, I think it was pretty decisive victory and she was much the best,” he said.
What really left some people reeling was the fact that the Delaware Park officials weren’t even going to lodge a stewards inquiry. They only got involved after Ricardo Santana, rider of Paid Up Subscriber, lodged an objection.
“He [Santana] didn’t even know who hit him, because he was on the one and couldn’t see all the way over to the four,” said Stall. “He thought the two or the three did it to him. I told him, ‘nah, it looked like the four to me.’ He didn’t realize it was a domino effect.”
After reviewing the tapes and listening to both riders, the decision was made to let the results of the race stand.
John Wayne, the executive director of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission later released a statement on behalf of the stewards, explaining their decision.
“[The stewards] said the 4-horse came in, had bumps with the 3 and the 2, which in turn bumped the no. 1. After the bump, the no. 4 lost ground as much as anyone else and was four lengths behind the 1 after the bump. They thought that the bump and the fact that the 4-horse was four lengths behind the 1, it didn’t cost the 1-horse a placing. And the 1-horse never lost stride for the rest of the race,” explained Wayne.
What they say is true: I’m a Chatterbox (no.4) did lose quite a bit of ground after the break. Paid Up Subscriber (no. 1) never broke stride after the incident and was not likely cost a placing. However, that isn’t what many people are looking at.
Al Stall agrees that the winner had to overcome trouble, but notes that all trouble was “self-inflicted” while his charge’s trouble came at the hands of I’m a Chatterbox.
Quotes from the race chart are as follows:
I’m a Chatterbox: Crowded foes start, driving. Bobbled at the start then ducked in crowding rivals.
Paid Up Subscriber: Bumped off stride start. Was bumped off stride after the start, recovered to race within easy striking distance and finished gamely.
Milaya: Bumped start, crowded. Bumped with the winner at the start then was crowded inward soon after.
Money’soncharlotte: Roughed start. Was roughed after the start, raced close up to the far turn then tired.
From the looks of things, I’m a Chatterbox was clearly the best in the field. The incident she caused affected her negatively, as it did others, but she was able to overcome it. However, the fact remains that she did cause the incident and, in doing so, may have ruined the chance of a higher placing for two other horses.
Does being the decisive winner mean that she should get to keep her winning status? Or, should a foul be a foul, no matter how good the winner is?