When it comes to racing, sometimes people rise to the occasion. Whether through people like Fran Azur making the Barton Fair special this year by sending his two best horses up to appear in an exhibition race with their nationally recognized drivers and supplementing purses, to people like driver Corey Callahan, the starter and paddock judge at Chester Downs and others, including fans, making donations to help pay horseman Jason Moore’s medical bills (there is still an auction for autographed racing whips and other items for benefit of Jason going on; just search for harness whips and then when in the listing click on 'See other items' under the seller's name).
Then sometimes racing brings out the worst in people. On Monday night at Chester Downs, there was an accident which resulted in half the eight horse field being wiped out. After the race was over the judges declared the race ‘No Contest’ and ordered all wagers refunded. Well, needless to say there were objections by some regarding the race being declared ‘No Contest’ with one person even claiming the judges were ‘crooked’. I assume the person who claimed the judges were crooked was a gambler who had the winning horse. After hearing these comments I had to watch the replay of this race to see what happened.
During the race, one of the horses involved in the accident got loose and ran the wrong way. As the quartet of remaining horses came through the stretch the second time, they had to go wide as the loose horse was heading up the stretch the wrong way. True, all the remaining horses had to deal with the same situation but a couple of drivers eased their horses up as they went wide through the stretch as they were more concerned to ensure there was no collision. After the race was completed, the judges took quite a bit of time in making their decision to declare the race ‘No Contest’. On the replay I watched via NJAW, seven minutes passed and by the time the replay ended, the judges still did not make a ruling. My guess is the judges talked to the drivers to see how the loose horse impacted them while they were making a decision. Ultimately, they decided on declaring the race ‘No Contest’
If there was any problem, it was not with the judges but with the rules. Have you ever seen what happens when two horses collide head on? Usually you have at least one or two dead horses and who knows what injuries occur to the driver(s). True, most of the time the horse runs in a straight line but if no one is in control of the horse there is always a chance the horse will change course; especially if the loose horse comes upon the draw gate or the paddock. If anything should happen as a result of Monday night’s incident, it is that the rules should be changed so in the future if a horse gets loose during a race and runs in the opposite direction where the possibility exists for the remaining field to meet up the loose horse during the race, the drivers should be instructed to pull their horses up as soon as possible to get away from the loose horse with the race being automatically declared ‘No Contest’; no ifs and/or buts. Err on the side of caution.
I sure like to cash a ticket whenever possible, but not at the expense of putting a driver and horse in danger as a result of a possible head on collision. The rules should be changed now, not after we have an incident we will regret.
Someone at the NY Times must be reading View From the Racetrack Grandstand - Well, may be not. I previously wrote about the need for the standardbred industry to ensure their equine stars are protected once their racing careers have concluded. In my proposal, I had suggested a fee being charged at certain times starting when the horse is registerd to ensure there is an account set up for each horse's use once they are no longer able to race. The funds in these accounts would be used to send a horse to a retirement organization and give a little money to the group to help pay for their operations; hopefully enough money to get the horse retrained and adopted out, with a provision to provide the owner with the same compensation they would have gotten if the horse was sent to slaughter. In addition, the account will be available to pay for euthanasia if the horse not fit for retirement.
In an editorial, the New York Times is calling for the institution of a fees at different times in a horse's life, starting with the breeders to pay for the upkeep of the horses once their career is over as well as making sure the fee is high enough to discourage over breeding. This proposal is very similar to the one I proposed. The industry needs to take notice of this editorial, not even for the specifics. If you are getting editorials in mainstream newspapers concerning the fate of retired racehorses, the policy of encouraging better treatment of our former equine athletes is no longer sufficient; it is time to mandate the treatment.