- Over $1.6 million was up for grabs amongst the three Pick Six carryover pools on Wednesday. All three of them were hit, but the most dramatic conclusion took place at Belmont Park. What looked on paper like a daunting task turned into a parade of favorites: 3-1, 4-5, 6-5, 4-5, 2-1. So when Our Top Cat, the 3-1 second choice in the 9th, held off 19-1 Karakorum Tornado in the 9th, a lot of people - around 225, based on my rough calculation - were set to collect a relatively easy $1,389 from the pool of $419,572.
But the inquiry sign went up. In a case like this, you'll sometimes hear people at the track say 'oh, they won't take down the favorite,' especially when there's a lot of money at stake in a case like this. But Our Top Cat was indeed DQ'd. Ed Fountaine, writing in the NY Post, called it "borderline" but I don't agree, and a look at the head-on shot (which you can see on Cal Racing) shows why. With Cornelio Velasquez aboard, the horse opened up a three length lead midstretch as the rider whipped him right handed. But then he switched to his left hand, and Our Top Cat immediately shied from the whip and drifted out sharply. Instead of switching back, Velasquez continued to hit him left handed, again and again, and each time the horse reacted and continued to drift to the middle of the track. Fountaine writes that Karakorum Thunder probably wasn't going to get by anyway. That may or may not be the case, but regardless, I thought that the stewards, who probably did indeed require a solid reason to disqualify the winner in this case, had no choice. The jockey persisted in whipping the horse even as he continued to bear out, and I think that he's looking at days in this case.
John Velazquez, in his chat session on Bloodhorse.com, was questioned about the practice of whipping. He responded:
"The whip is needed and we use it when it is necessary. In the case of safety, we need whips to keep the horses in as straight a line as possible and to avoid injury to themselves and riders. For example, I rode a horse recently who bolted to the outside fence. The only thing that prevented him from jumping or hitting the outside fence was my whip." [Bloodhorse]In this case, the rider did not use the whip to straighten his mount; and in fact exacerbated a bad situation by repeatedly using it in a way that caused crowding and a possible dangerous situation. So, sorry to anyone who was adversely affected, but I think the DQ was totally justified. The Pick Six with the 19-1 winner on top instead returned $14,026 to far fewer bettors than it would have had the order of finish not been reversed.