I have been as critical of racing stewards as anybody over the years.
I think it is a travesty that a position originally designed to ensure that bettors were protected is now almost exclusively filled by folks within the racing industry. Yeah, I get the argument that one needs some experience with the Sport of Kings to be effective as a racing official, but I don’t think that experience needs to be working on the backside, as is often the requirement these days.
Does one need to have played in the NFL, NBA or MLB to be an official in those leagues? Of course not.
California Racing Rules
That said, I think those complaining about the stewards’ ruling in the CashCall Futurity on Saturday are being overly critical.
Here’s the deal: Coming down the stretch in the CashCall, the leader McKinzie appears to drift out just a bit at the same time Solomini ducks in, briefly sandwiching Instilled Regard.
Now, in California (and this is yet another frustration of mine — the rules vary by state), a horse will generally be disqualified if it cost another entrant a “better placing” (unless that horse’s name is Bayern, but that’s another story). Given that Instilled Regard was beaten just a head by McKinzie for second, it can be argued that, had the interference not occurred, the son of Arch may have finished ahead of that rival. I stress “may,” however, because nothing in the replay — and I’ve watched it several times — makes me think that Instilled Regard definitely would have passed the prohibitive favorite.
Still, Solomini was disqualified and placed third, while Instilled regard was elevated to second.
The Bob Baffert Factor
What makes this a tough decision for the stewards, in my opinion, is that Solomini was going to win the race, period. Anybody who has watched more than one thoroughbred horse race in their lifetime knows this. As I said, maybe Instilled Regard gets past McKinzie — maybe. But he sure as heck wasn’t going to run down Solomini.
So, the stewards were in a bind. Do they disqualify McKinzie, the horse that drifted out a little? Do they take down Solomini, whose infraction was more egregious, yet who was clearly the best horse on Saturday? Or do they take down both of them?
I have seen some argue for the latter course of action, complaining that trainer Bob Baffert rules California racing, which is why the stewards refused to take down both of his runners (Baffert trains Solomini and McKinzie).
Hogwash. Poppycock. Malarkey.
Disqualifying both Solomini and McKinzie would have been the greatest miscarriage of justice since Casey Anthony was acquitted… OK, so I might be exaggerating just a tad. Still, in the spirit of protecting the bettors, it is ludicrous to even consider making Instilled Regard the winner of the CashCall — that would be like calling a defensive holding penalty on fourth-and-50 with the game on the line.
As a bettor, I think the most palatable decision would have been to disqualify McKinzie — or do nothing at all, something that the Daily Racing Form’s Mike Watchmaker argued for.
But the bottom line is that this was a tough call for the stewards and, while I probably would have ruled differently, I’m not going to chastise them for trying to adhere to California’s rules of racing.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, it’s time to stop whining.