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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Just the Facts Sir

We couldn't end the year without another column discussing the Ontario Racing Commission's urging rules could we? This time we discuss it with a different spin.

At Windsor Raceway on December 20, there were two disqualifications as a result of the urging rules and this past weekend, another disqualification. In all three occasions the driver was a Canadian or an American that drives at Windsor Raceway with some regularity so the the ORC rules should not be foreign to them. One would think at this point the need for disqualifications, which are reserved for the most flagrant violations, would be a rare occurrence, only with drivers who make a rare appearance in Ontario. But that is a subject for another day. We can argue whether the rule is good or not, but for now, the rule is the rule.

In the case of the fifth race on December 27, it did appear the driver violated the rule in that the whip did make contact with the horse below the shaft of the sulky. The rule indicates a placing may take place if, in the opinion of the judges, there has been a flagrant disregard of the rules. Being Gene Piroski’s whip apparently did make contact with the horse below the sulky shaft several times, the judges decided it was a flagrant violation. The judges at Windsor appear to be applying a strict interpretation of this rule (As a side note, I would have fined and possibly given days to Piroski but would have left the horse up).

What makes me bring up this particular incident is what happened after the race. Instead of just announcing the disqualification, the track announcer prefaced the announcement with "I'm just the announcer...", in effect passing comment on the judges’ ruling.

I am all for track for announcers adding color and emotion to race calls. Nothing is more boring than a drone-like race call. However, in the capacity of the track announcer, when announcing judges’ decisions, he should be informing the fans of the judges’ decision and nothing more. By prefacing the decision with “I’m just the announcer” he in effect was telling people either the judges’ decision and/or the urging rules were wrong. This was not the forum to do so. Hopefully his employers and possibly the judges had a chat with the announcer afterwards.

This is not to say a track announcer can’t voice his opinion; just do it outside of his/her role as track announcer. When it comes to announcing judges’ decisions, it should be “Just the Facts Sir”.

I do find fault with a couple of things concerning the judges on Sunday night at Windsor. First of all, several minutes passed before the inquiry sign was lit. If there judges thought there was a problem, the inquiry sign should have been lit immediately after the race. If it turned out no foul occurred, the inquiry sign could be turned off. The second issue is if a horse is going to be disqualified where the mutual results will be changed, the judges owe the fans/gamblers a better explanation as to why a horse is being disqualified instead of just for violating the rule. Tell the fans exactly, what the infraction was and show it to them, the fans are owed that.

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