One advantage of harness racing rules has been it has never been a question of did the infraction affect the outcome of the race; it either happened or didn't. If the infraction happened, you got placed behind the horses you impacted. This black and white method of 'justice' helps us avoid having situations runners have where a horse can bump another horse so hard, almost unseating the jockey of the other horse without a placing taking place (I've seen it).
The problem with this binary way of determining whether an infraction took place or not is the possibility of collateral damage. It is one thing if the infraction affects the outcome of the race, such as a lapped on break or interfering with a fast closing horse. But what if it's a case where the impact of the infraction is less clear? Is it fair to alter the outcome of the wagering where it is not clear the results would have been different? I say no.
Standardbred racing needs to adopt the thoroughbred method where it comes to placing when it comes to wagering. If it is not clear the outcome of the race would be different, there should be no placing for wagering purposes.
As an example, years ago I was at Monticello when a horse, after clearing the lead horse, came back to the rail a little too quickly causing the passed horse to take up for a moment. In the meanwhile, the race winner crossed the finish line about twenty lengths ahead of the second place finisher. In this case, the winner was disqualified and placed second behind the horse he interfered with despite the fact it was clear this technical infraction had no impact on the outcome of the race. What would have happened if one of these two scenarios occurred:
- The results should have stood official 'as is' for wagering purposes. The judges should have fined the driver the difference in the driver's commission as a result of the placing or $250, whichever is greater and given days if appropriate.
- The horse should have been placed second for purses purposes. The driver would then be fined and/or given days as the infraction demands.
So to take it back to Saturday night; the bettors, including the bridge jumper(s), have no ability to appeal the judges' decision but the owners and trainers can and have taken advantage of their ability to appeal. If the judges had the ability to leave the pari-mutuel results as they finished but altered the finish for purse purposes, no horseplayer would have negatively been impacted (assuming you believe the infraction didn't impact the results of the race), and the connections of Odds On Equuleus still have their avenue of appeal. Instead of acting as if the gambler doesn't matter, racing justice must do everything it can to protect the interests of those who can't avail themselves of the appeal process because while the gambler can't appeal a decision they feel was unfair, they can take their business elsewhere.