Should early fouls not count?
That’s the crux of heated criticism following Bayern’s victory in Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and may lead to changes in California’s racing rules.
In America’s richest horse race, pace-setting Bayern edged Toast of New York and California Chrome. Incidents at the start of the 11/4-mile stakes could have changed that result.
Bayern (with Martin Garcia aboard) and Toast of New York (ridden by Jamie Spencer) were involved in big bumps early in the race at Santa Anita Park that – had they happened later – would have merited disqualification, steward Scott Chaney said. But the panel of Chaney and two other state stewards decided the incidents did not cost favorite Shared Belief, Moreno or other horses involved the chance at a better finish.
“In our determination, it didn’t happen at a point of the race where it changed where they were reasonably expected to finish,” Chaney said.
Shared Belief, which finished fourth, took the worst of the twin collisions, getting knocked by Bayern out of the gate, then by Toast of New York 150 yards later. Moreno, who was caught up in the initial chain reaction, finished last in the 14-horse field.
If disqualified, Bayern would have been placed last after Moreno. And if Toast of New York had been disqualified, too, California Chrome would have won and Shared Belief would have placed second.
“The casual wagering public sees interference and expects some sort of punishment,” Chaney said. “But this rule is not about punishment but about creating some equity. We’re trying to get rid of that unfairness.”
Rick Baedeker, executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, said he expects the sport’s governing body to look at its riding rules and application.
“They may take some subjectivity out of the process,” he said. “It really was a perfect storm for this. … It’s the most difficult situation for (the stewards) to be put in.”
Previously unbeated Shared Belief, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, also lost a $1 million bonus and any chance at Horse of the Year honors.
And the lack of a disqualification incensed the horse’s co-owner, sports radio and TV host Jim Rome, who called it a “garbage result.”
“The question is, ‘When is a foul a foul?’” Rome told listeners. “The message is, ‘Take any edge you can get.’”