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Thursday, August 30, 2012

You Make the Call

Reading the fines and suspensions list, we see Allan Davis, a driver at Harrington Raceway called in for what the judges rules was an "Unsatisfactory Drive - Carelessness", specifically for having 'failed to drive the horse to the finish'.  Davis had a hearing a hearing was handed a $500 fine and a nine day suspension for driving for his part in the incident.

Admittedly outraged, I took a look at the video and came out wondering how Davis got away so lightly.  After all, what was the recourse for the gamblers who lost on the horse he drove?  Certainly the fine should have been more and Allan Davis should have received more days for the infraction.  

Well, I looked at the video a couple more times when the passions weren't as great and I must admit, my opinion of the situation had mellowed and I saw something I didn't see the first few times around.  Could there have been mitigating circumstances?

Watching the replay the #2 horse, Somethinginthewind was in the lead coming out of the final turn while #4 Stonebridge Comet, the 1-9 shot decided to head for the outside rail.  The driver of the heavy favorite, George Dennis, then battled with the horse which resulted in him starting to bear in significantly in the stretch.  Now, Somethinginthewind was in front when this happened but he had already given a sign of starting to tire (earlier than the slo-mo).  If Davis gave a tap or two or shaken the reins a bit, perhaps he would have won the race, however did Davis feel his charge was going to get run into by the bearing in of Stonebridge Comet so he did nothing to advance, preferring to let the 1-9 horse go by?  Without the head-on view it is hard to tell when the favorite stopped bearing in.  Yes, Davis could have gone on and if the favorite continued to bear in and interfere, Stonebridge Comet could have been disqualified.  Hardly any consolation for Davis if he ended up in the hospital with critical injuries. 

Now I was not in the judges stand when the initial decision was made nor was I in the hearing so I have no way to know if the fine and suspension were mitigated as a result of the hearing or the judges had the same train of thought I have.  What I do know is if they thought this was just a lack of effort on the driver's part a $500 fine and nine day suspension would have been an insult to every horseplayer, a total lack of regard for the gambler.

I realize making this decision 250 miles away from the track there are a lot of assumptions, correct or incorrect being made by me.   The judges clearly felt Davis made a mistake in not driving to the finish.  Do the horseplayers who wagered on Somethinginthewind have the right to be upset?  Absolutely.  Was the Davis involved in something nefarious?  I say no.  A driver has to make a snap decision on the track and let's not kid ourselves, trying to keep oneself safe tends to influence our decisions. 

What do you think?  I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Lou Pena hearing underway - Read HRU for a summary of day one of the expected three day hearing.

As a precursor to Saturday's big night at Mohawk Racetrack, trotters are on display tonight and Friday with the Champlain Stakes for 2yo trotters and the Ontario Sires Stake Gold Final for 3yo trotting fillies.  Here are my selections for theses races.

Thursday, Mohawk 3rd Trot - $120,382 Champlain Stakes - 2yo fillies (1st Division)
4  Choir Robe (Zeron, 9-2)
7  Shared Past (Gingras, 6-5)
5  Orderingin (Filion, 5-1)

Thursday, Mohawk 5th Trot - $130,000 Ontario Sires Stakes - Gold Final - 3yo fillies
4  Smarty Pants (Filion, 7-2)
9  One More Ginny (Jamieson, 8-1)
2  Miss Paris (Zeron, 6-5)
3  Sugar Wheeler (MacDonell, 5-1)

Thursday, Mohawk 9th Trot - $122,381 Champlain Stakes - 2yo fillies (2nd Division)
3  Charmed Life (MacDonell, 9-2)
4  Bee A Magician (Zeron, 1-1)
2  Lady Dynamite (Gingras, 5-1)
1  Standing My Ground (Ritchie, 8-1)

Friday, Mohawk 5th Trot - $140,914 Champlain Stakes - 2yo Trot (1st Division)
  5  Aperfectyankee (Oscarsson, 2-1) 
  2  Creampuff Macdaddy (Iamieson, 6-1)
  3  Murmur Hanover (Baillargeon, 7-2)
11  Its Payday Friday (Christoforu, 12-1)

Friday, Mohawk 8th Trot - $138,915 Champlain Stakes - 2yo Trot (2nd Division)
5  My Man Can (Miller, 5-2)
2  Crazed N Lindy (Zeron, 9-2)
1  Theatrical Session (Ritchie, 5-1)
3  Toocool Forschool (Filion, 6-1)


Anonymous said...

I'm not buying your Davis excuse today. Where did you see the horse tiring late in the race? He wasn't flipping his tail, the most obvious sign. I've had a couple of people look at the video and they all say the same thing....fix.

Pacingguy said...

If you look early in the stretch, you will see Davis' horse flip his tail once.

If the judges thought there was something unsavory about his drive in the manner you described, I would have hoped the judges would have given him a much more severe fine and suspension.

JLB said...

I have read your blog since its infancy and feel it is a valuable contributor to the industry. I have watched the video several times and heartily disagree with your reasoning. I do not think the favorite was running in, down the stretch, once he was straightened out when he "blew the turn". In my opinion, Davis did not persevere with his horse and was waiting for the favorite to go by. There have been cases where a driver has checked his horse when a rival in front of him bore in or out, but that is not the case here.

There is a Delaware precedent for a much heavier fine/suspension. Jonathan Roberts incurred a much longer suspension when, at Dover Downs, he grabbed his horse up so as to finish second, in order to stay in the same class. The next week, the horse romped in that same condition.

Anonymous said...

I think he thought he had the race won, and was shocked that the other horse which had been weaving all over the track finally pulled it all together in the last 100 yards to nail the victory.

Far said...

Norman Dauplaise used to do that all the time.

When Buddy Gilmour put the lines in his lap, and his head down, he won 100% of the time -- and some photos were close.

When Dauplaise did it, you could not count on winning.

Pacingguy said...


I may be wrong. Part of my analysis is from the minimal fine/suspension.

Back in 2009, Peter Wrenn got a 30 day suspension for an unsatisfactory drive in Indiana, and as you mentioned Roberts got a much heavier penalty in Delaware himself.

I looked at Davis' previous fines and suspensions and he never had a major penalty like this before; if anything it has been for excessive use of the whip, suggesting aggressiveness.

Perhaps I am wrong in basing my analysis on the mercy the judges appear to have given Davis. Maybe I was trying to explain the drive in light of the penalty. Maybe I gave the judge's decision too much weight.

Wouldn't it be great if it was like in Ontario where at least part of the hearing transcript is made available to the general public to look up?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about Davis's experience level, but he has more than 400 drives this year at Harrington.

A guy with that many drives should not be unnerved by a horse bearing in, especially when there's no one inside of him.

Is he a crook? Don't know. Misjudged the finish line? Not likely for a regular driver.

Wish we knew what he said to the Delaware judges because it appears to me he just stopped driving when the favorite got along side him.

It may just have been a lousy drive by an average driver, but bettors need to know judges find that unacceptable and worthy of a longer suspension and larger fine.

Considering what drivers can earn in a single day (even at Harrington), the penalty handed out doesn't send a strong enough message.

Dave said...

I cannot explain to myself why a driver of his experience would need to be shifting and looking back several times at the onset of the race other than to look for a horse that he has an interest in.

Given the drive on the bomb from the rail by Kevin Lare, one would think he was supposed to be in the trifecta number too. Had Davis given one tenth of that effort, the four couldn't have "ran into him". In all my years of racing, never have I heard of a driver saying they slowed down because they were afraid of anything much less a horse coming from behind them.

The half assed penalty tells a lot about the judges at Harrington.

Pacingguy said...


Well, there are times a driver will be looking for someone if they expect them to be coming at them. At 1-9, you would expect that horse to be coming at you from the start in most cases.