The first time I watched the replay of the start of the Breeders’ Cup Classic I was standing on the racetrack, and I let out with an emphatic “Whoa!” So, I can understand how strongly people feel about this. It looked pretty flagrant.
But when you really think about it, all the uproar over the incident is not about Bayern’s interference. It’s about who he interfered with. And from a steward’s viewpoint, that should have no bearing on their decision. If Shared Belief and Moreno had drawn outside Bayern and he did the exact same thing and interfered with two 50-1 shots would anyone have paid any attention to the start of the race or even cared in the slightest? Same exact foul.
Did Bayern interfering with Moreno change the pace scenario and how the early part of the race was run? Probably. Did Bayern interfering with Shared Belief hamper the chances of the favorite? Probably, although Shared Belief did not make up an inch of ground in the stretch and never looked like a winner at any point.
But what probably would have happened is not for the stewards to decide. They have discretion on incidents in the stretch if they believe a horse who is interfered with was already a beaten horse before the incident. That’s because the majority of the race has already been played out and you know who the strong horses are and who the tiring horses are. At the start, nothing has been played out and the race is still a blank canvas, and it’s difficult for the stewards to disqualify a horse on speculation as to what probably would have or should have happened had there been no interference.
We see incidents like that all the time, including in the Kentucky Derby where some horse or horses often get creamed at the start. If California Chrome had ducked in and caused a chain reaction in the Derby, do you think he would have been disqualified? If you don’t think he would have been or you don’t think he should have been, then why do you think Bayern should have been disqualified? I’ll tell you why – because of who he bothered, not what he did.
Now, one of the Santa Anita stewards, Scott Chaney, who is a good guy and a fair steward, made a statement that he never should have made, because it shoots his whole argument down and actually contradicts what I just said. He said. “In our determination it didn't happen at a point of the race where it changed where they were reasonably expected to finish.” That was a bad comment. As I said in defending them, it’s not up to the stewards at the start of the race to determine where horses are reasonably expected to finish. Just like it’s not up to them to determine what the pace scenario is going to be. He basically used his own defense against himself by saying something self destructive. He should have left that part out.
Chaney goes on to say in his statement, “At the start of a mile-and-a-quarter race we’re really loathe to make a change. You really don't want us handicapping the race.” Well, when you say, “Where they’re reasonably expected to finish,” that’s exactly what you’re doing.
The bottom line is, the best horse won. If you disqualified Bayern you would have had to put up a horse who was not part of the incident and had no excuses, having had the entire length of the stretch to get by Bayern. How satisfactory would that have been? If you disqualified Bayern and Toast of New York you would have been in the same situation with California Chrome, who ran a sensational race, but simply came up a tad short, having had one hard-luck performance in the past five months. Would a double disqualification have been satisfactory other than to California Chrome fans?
Just what would have been a satisfactory result?
I acknowledge what Bayern did was flagrant and costly. And I’m not saying the stewards made the right decision. But I’m not saying they made the wrong decision. I’m saying they made the only decision based on their own rules and how they have interpreted them in the past.