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Thursday, April 19, 2012

You Make the Call

So, is it easy to be a judge?  Let's take a look at the 9th race from Pocono Downs this past Tuesday evening.  In this race, #7 Emily Do was a nose in front ahead of #9 ENS Gliding Condor, but there was an inquiry for a possible violation of the breaking rule.

Take a look at the finish of the race as well as the two slow-motion views and you make the call.

According to the Pocono Downs judges, there was no violation of the breaking rule.  In fact, from looking at the chart of the race, no break was noted so the judges must have decided Emily Do was merely rough-gaited before the wire.

My initial thought was WTF?  How could the horse have stayed up?  I then went and looked at it step by step and have concluded while I still think the #7 should have been disqualified, I can see why she stayed up.  I  can also see if the second place horse appeals the judges' decision, there is a chance that the original decision does get overturned.

It did look like she threw in a couple of pacing strides which would have been fine except it was a trotting event.  At the wire, the horse was back on her gait.

So we go to the breaking rule in Pennsylvania.

§ 183.292. Breaking.

(a) When a horse breaks from its gait in trotting or pacing, the driver shall at once, where clearance exists, take the horse to the outside and pull it to its gait.

(b) The following shall be considered violations of section 12Q:

  (1) Failure to properly attempt to pull the horse to its gait.

  (2) Failure to take to the outside where clearance exists.

  (3) Failure to lose ground by the break.

(c) If there has been no failure on the part of the driver in complying with subsection (b)(1)—(3), the horse may not be set back unless a contending horse on his gait is lapped on the hind quarter of the breaking horse at the finish.

(d) The judges may set any horse back one or more places if in their judgment any of the violations listed in this section have been committed, and the driver may be penalized

Let's step throug through the rule.

183.292(a) - The horse was on the outside so there was clearance.  As for pulling it to the gait it is covered elsewhere.

183.292(b).1 - Well, it was a couple of bad strides and the horse went back to its gait.  Does a driver react that quick to get a horse back on stride?  I don't know.  Let's give David Miller the benefit of the doubt.

183.292(b).2 - Well, the horse was on the outside so by default Miller did take her outside.

183.292(b).3 - I didn't see the horse lose ground.  This would have been the point I would have taken the horse down.  Apparently the judges felt there was not enough time to get the horse to lose ground, or they felt the #9 came back to the #7, not the #7 gaining on the #9. 

183.292(c) - No lap on break as Emily Do got back on the trot right on the wire.  Doesn't apply.

183,292(d) - "The judges may..." not "The judges shall...".  Probably the way they word these things, certainly if one of the conditions are violated, the horse comes down.  The question is did it?

The point here is not that the judges blew the call, or not.  While I would have taken her down, I can understand why the judges didn't.  I disagree with their decision, and you are going to have some people unhappy either way; especially those who had the horses in question in their wagers.   

Bottom line is, its not easy being the judge. 


Anonymous said...

Not sure why you say he was back on stride at the wire. He looked to be galloping right across, and the lapped-on rule certainly applies.

Pacingguy said...

If you look at the very last slo-motion view, it looks to me like he went back to the trot on the last step. However, it goes to show you that two people can see two different things. This is why they put three judges in the box and they vote on making a decision.

Eric P said...

Another thought is that the manner in which the rules are written, leaves them open to various interpretations. Perhaps if there was more clarity in the written rules, it would be easier for Judges and Horseplayers to understand and will lead to more consistency in their interpretation.

Anonymous said...

Looking at it at full speed, you may have a point, but the slow-mo replay shows otherwise.
No way on heaven or earth that this horse got back in stride before the finish. Sorry. In fact, this horse only passed the winner near the wire while off stride. He galloped past the leader. Easy call. Judges are either incompetent or too lazy to look at the replay.

Anonymous said...

As a regular player at Pocono, the judges' decision wasn't surprising. Without taking a position on whether the horse broke before, at or after the wire, or whether the trotter was pacing late in the race, I can tell you the outcome of the inquiry was predictable.

The Pocono judges usually don't disqualify a horse for something that happens that close to the finish, unless there's interference. Is that right? Is it wrong? Let the debate continue.

Anonymous said...

Pacing Guy, if you look closely at the finish line and stop the video, you should notice that the left hind leg (one with the white skin guard) is really the inside horses leg. If you could blow up the right hind leg, you would see that there are two hoofs moving in the same motion as the other. It can be decetinve at first but always start by looking at the equipment on the horse in pictures.

JLB said...

I think he did not lose ground, and I am not sure he was on stride at the wire. I am very surprised that the judges did not DQ-but perhaps these were the same judges that officiated when Pocono had thoroughbreds racing in the 70's on that 5/8 mile oval, and they forgot which breed they were judging (yes, I am kidding). If I were the winning owner, I would be counting my blessings.

Harness fan said...

First off, I was watching the race live and thought to myself this horse has to come down. To see Emily wasn't DQ'ed was a shock.

Second, thanks Z for posting this finish on Youtube and adding the slo-mo. As a customer/gambler, I appreciate your efforts to get anyone to look at this very bad decision. To add to your comments about leg position, it's very clear at the 19-21 second marks this trotter is not "trotting" before the wire. Good luck in your endeavors.

Anon, the judges at Pocono won't take down a horse that close to wire, even if he's on the wrong gait and gaining ground? One word...pitiful. That is totally wrong!

A lot of great comments on this subject, I hope to read more. It may be hard to be a judge but this call was easy, they blew it or I should stop wagering.

Pacingguy said...

A couple of comments I received outside of this blog about the race in question.

The first one came from a former driver/trainer - "Can't tell".

The other comment came from a current catch driver - "It is hard to say, it does look like she got back on stride when the flash from the camers [photographer] went off, but we don't know where that was in correlation to the finish line. The judges have access to other angles and better quality video than what you are showing".

Anonymous said...

Thought she was off stride through the wire...Think the judges dropped the ball here...