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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What can be Learned from "The Call"

Regarding the infamous disqualification of Odds On Equuleus from the fourth race at The Red Mile on Saturday night, this incident shows the need to change the way infractions are judged to minimize the damage done to innocent parties.  Being the innocent party in this case was the horseplayer, it shows once again the rules were written without considering the concerns of the horseplayer.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The horse should have been placed second for purses purposes.  The driver would then be fined and/or given days as the infraction demands.     
In either of this case, the bettors would not be impacted for a 'technical' infraction.

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.


Scott Jeffreys said...

Dear Pacingguy : Let's start with a disclosure - I had no bet on the race, no dog in this fight.

Let's look at the opening fraction : 29.0. Sam McKee calls Sears for obviously slowing the pace and guess what happens - the field pulls and pushes a half in 56.0. Where is Sears' fine and sanction for confusing the field? Oh wait - as 28-1 he is not considered culpable? First panel doesn't count?

Campbell makes the top in that second panel and likely cut a 26.1 fraction getting to the top.

So, we are supposed to ignore that and press to a 1:23.1 (27.1) fraction? Instead, we get to three-quarters in 1:24.4 (28.4).

Campbell is doing a great driving job to save his horse.

No one is talking about the lack of outer flow heading into the far turn - could the pocket or third place have pulled? Absolutely. Did they? No. They sat in with too much horse and blamed the pace setter who was trying to win the race?

This was a disgraceful call and underscores that harness racing ENDORSES indian style racing, expecting 27.0-28.0 quarters around the mile track. Screw the pace, screw strategy of the driver - the pocket sitter gets preference over all others.

As you know, I was a DEDICATED harness player and author in Hoof Beats for years. We moved to the T-Breds due to the garbage - including officiating - that this race calls to the forefront. It is an embarrassment that you can defend the judges in this case.

In closing, let me ask you this : if Campbell hung up three-quarters in 1:22.4 after a 26.4 third panel, would you have been leading the pack saying that Campbell had no idea how to rate a mile?

We disagree on this one - and then some.

Sincerely, Scott

Pacingguy said...

Scott, let me address a couple of things. First of all, I agree the judges could make the call they did and I can defend it. That being said, if it took that long to make a decision I would call it one of those 'technical' violations which in this entry would not have involved a DQ for wagering purposes but would have been handled by the judges after the fact.

Let me say this, Sears should have pulled but the fact is he is not obligated to. He is entitled to hold his ground.

However, one reaon Sears may not have decided not to pull (he did start to but decided not to) may be Rule 18(1)(a) which covers violations - (a) Change either to the right or left during any part of the race when another horse
is so near him that in altering his position he compels the horse behind him to shorten
his stride, or causes the driver of such other horse to pull him out of his stride. - There was a horse who launched his brush and reached his sulky as he moved back in.

As a point of reference, this is the rule justification likely used for the DQ. Rule 18(1)(g) - (g) Sit down in front of a horse or take up abruptly in front of other horses so as to
cause confusion or interference among trailing horses. - Though I am not sure what the definition of 'Sit Down' is; clearly it is different from taking up abruptly which Campbell obviously didn't do.

Scott Jeffreys said...

Dear Pacingguy : Correct - Sears is NOT obligated to pull, but why is Campbell therefore forced to maintain a pace detrimental to his horse and beneficial to Sears' rail trip?

As for Rule 18(1)(g), if you cannot interpret "Sit down" in the opening half of the clause and do not think that Campbell took up abruptly, how can you say that Rule 18(1)(g) was the basis for disqualification? Either you point to the rule and identify what was violated (which you have not done) ... or ... we need another rule that was violation ... or (more likely) ... one cannot defend the decision of the judges.

Which way is it going to be?

Honestly, the lack of coverage of this debate at the USTA web site drives at the disdain for the patron.

Sincerely, Scott

Anonymous said...

agree big time with the last comment from Scott