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Monday, March 07, 2011

Game On in Big Cap

I watched the head-on of the Big Cap, and my first impression was that Trevor Denman had it right when he observed that "Game On Dude shifted out." And that Setsuko's jockey Victor Espinoza was correct in saying that "the stewards are blind."

"Obviously, those three stewards, they don’t know what they’re looking at.

"I don’t mind running a legitimate second, but when you knock the air out of my horse and you get beat by a head, it’s just insane.” [Bloodhorse]
But upon further review, I think there's enough reasonable doubt as to which horse started the chain reaction to justify the decision to leave the result unchanged.
"The whole chain reaction series of events was caused by the middle horse (Twirling Candy)," said steward Scott Chaney.
That was the opinion of two of the three stewards in a split decision. Watching it frame by frame, it's hard to say who is right, in my opinion. The most incriminating thing against Game On Dude in my view is that the incident occurred immediately after the first time Chantal Sutherland hit him with a left-handed whip. But I think a reasonable observer could make the case that Twirling Candy was leaning inward at the time, and was at least equally to blame. The person I think has the least to complain about is Espinoza on Setsuko. He looked to have the race won despite the bumping, but was beaten fair and square at the wire by an ultra-game and resilient Game On Dude, who additionally probably took the worst of the bumping of the two.

It was distressing to read of how Baffert was cursed at by some fans (though news reports at sporting events often make the actions of a few idiots seem more widespread than they actually were).
"I've been to Belmont," Baffert said later. "This was nothing." [LA Times]
Oooo, ouch. Well, maybe the hecklers were just a bunch of Tea Partiers who mistook the white-haired trainer as the intrusive Uncle Sam (with a shave). Game On Dude earned a career-high Beyer of 99, and is now two-for-two in 2011 after being away since finishing 4th in last year's Belmont.


Anonymous said...

Nice interpretation of the stretch run and decision. I tend to agree and thought it was a fair call overall ( I was not involved ). I am often amazed at all the horseplayers screaming for disqualifications. The less the better. In this case I doubt they all bet the 24:1 Setsuko. However, his backers surely multiplied exponentially after the non-takedown.

As for Baffert, there's a reason he is uniformly unpopular in the game.

Figless said...

I suspect some of the on track disgruntled bettors that booed Baffert backed Sydneys Candy and others were just mystified at the decision.

For the record the only reason I am bringing up the DQ's was I happened to be involved in three this particular weekend, all with longshots that finished second, and could not get lucky and have even one put up. You have to admit that is a bit unusual.

I disagree with the SAH ruling because although Sydney was leaning just a bit into the winner this happens all the time without causing major bumping. Its clear to me that the winner came out after being whipped, but obviously the stewards and Alan see it differently. Judgement call but they seemed to side with the less likely possibility.

The Gotham was a clear foul, and despite NYRA implementing a "Stewards Corner" on their website there is no explanation, so I am left to presume they believe it did not effect the outcome of the race.

I hate that excuse, a foul is a foul, you can not presume anything with an 1/8 of a mile to the finish.

The decision in Sundays 3rd at the Big A is much less clear to me, the jockey checked and claimed foul but it could have been a good acting job as one angle did appear to show the winner was clear when he came in.

The Stewards Corner indicates "#6 shifts in causing #5 to steady nearing the wire" which indicates a foul occurred. They continue "The Race was declared official as is" with no further explanation into their thinking. Why?

They reference a rule which would also seem to support a DQ when you read it.

A Stewards Corner is a long overdue concept for which NYRA was praised at the time of implementation, but a quick review of the information provided there reveals no new relevant information, it serves solely as a list of inquiries and objections without providing any enlightenment in which case it is useless.

In most jurisdictions overseas stewards are required to provide lenghthy written reports, sometimes even on races in which there is no foul.

Is that too much to ask?

steve in nc said...

I too had no horse in that dogfight and thought a non-call was the right one.

Refs & umps get no respect in our culture. As one who spent one season doing both, I can tell you it is really hard to do in real time, and that most complaints from coaches and managers are way off base (go sit in a dugout and try to see whether a pitch is inside or over the plate - it is impossible from that angle yet it is one of many routine sources of whining that shouldn't happen). 99% of fans who yowl would do far worse than the officials they complain about.

steve in nc said...

Figless - we were typing at the same time and my comment was not a response to yours. I agree that in racing, decisions should have an explanation and that there should be tranparency.

If the stewards are going to be czars, they should have to also be czars of the telestrators.

Figless said...

The Stewards job is a tough one for which they are well compensated. Getting criticized and booed is part of the job description for all referees.

All most of us ask for is consistancy and a detailed explanation of the decision and I feel the overseas model should be adopted here.

I feel that the need to write a written report on all races would lead to more consistancy and accountability and with millions of dollars on the line it is not to much to ask. If they dont like it there are others that would gladly take the job.

Figless said...

Steve, I believe we are on the same page.

Anonymous said...

Sydney's Candy did not run....Twirling Candy did.

Anonymous said...

So over the last ten years, we've gotten for winners of the "Big Cap" some utterly insignificant horses (Game On Dude, Misremembered, Heatseeker), a horse juiced to no end (Lava Man), a horse whose only other race of significance was the Ohio Derby (Milwaukee Brew, 2x), and a turf horse that took advantage of running on synthetic stuff (Einstein). Only Rock Hard Ten and Southern Image could be described as very good dirt horses. What a fall from grace.

alan said...

>>What a fall from grace.

I would think we could come up with a list of other once vaunted Grade 1's about which one could say the same thing. Including the Kentucky Derby based on the last three years anyway.

Anonymous said...

Alan - Thank you for handling the last retard's comment or else I was gonna be more vocal.


DiscreetPicks said...

I think Game On Dude deserved to stay up 100%. He had remained squarely in his own lane before Twirling Candy came over and knocked him off-balance. And as the stewards mentioned, that's what started the entire chjain-reaction. If you had taken Game On Dude down, that would've resulted in Game On Dude being punished for something that Twirling Candy did.

Incidentally, that was the worst bumping incident i've witnessed in a long, long, time. Maybe the worst ever, at least away from the starting gate. I was impressed that both Game On Dude and Setsuko were able to regroup and continue on as well as they did.

Anonymous said...

Rock Hard Ten wasn't that great a horse. Smarty Jones handed him his lunch. RHT was a nice looking horse, but somewhat of an underachiever out of the mold of say a Royal Anthem, who was probably the most beautiful horse I ever laid eyes upon, but couldn't touch Daylami.

As for the Big Cap, I think it was a very tough call. There was lots of bumping, but the worst case of a horse losing his line was First Dude, who veered out dramatically. You could argue contact caused him to veer out, but I'm not sure. Definitely not a cut & dry case of a DQ. -jp

SaratogaSpa said...

There is also the area at Belmont going from the Paddock into the tunnel-right before the tunnel it gets pretty tight and I have seen some rabid style heckling both when the connections are going in and than returning.

Erin said...

I would think a lot of the on-track booing can be accounted for by the fact that the initial contact was quite subtle and probably hard to discern to ontrack patrons watching the replay on the infield screen.

The obvious, second portion of interference made Game on Dude look pretty guilty.