I believe a stewards’ ruling on a recent race at Kentucky Downs failed to follow the state policies in place on disqualifications when an entry is involved, although chief steward Barbara Borden believes the rule gives them latitude on such matters.
As it turns out, even when given that latitude—which I don’t think is there—I still think they got it wrong.
To the stewards’ credit, they also released an explanation of the call and provided me with a follow-up explanation. I also should mention that I wagered to win on Summer Palace in this race, but as winner Glynn County was not involved in any of the issues I’m about to outline, my wager was not affected either way.
All that said, let’s start with the incident in question.
In the second race Saturday, Sept. 12 at Kentucky Downs, a one-mile maiden special for 3-year-olds and older, Rochambeau and Briefcase Bully started as an entry. David Ingordo is the owner of Briefcase Bully and co-owner, with Manganaro Bloodstock, of Rochambeau. Both horses are trained by Cherie DeVaux.
Rochambeau seized the lead in the far turn and opened a clear advantage in the stretch, but soon Glynn County would challenge on the outside while Summer Palace, with Jose Ortiz up, would attempt a rail rally. Summer Palace edged up inside to challenge Rochambeau, Tyler Gaffalione up, when that one swerved hard to the inside forcing Ortiz to steady hard.
Uninvolved in the incident, Glynn County would surge to a two-length victory while Rochambeau would reach the wire second. After Summer Palace had to steady hard, Rochambeau’s entry mate, Briefcase Bully, would surge past and finish third, 2 3/4 lengths in front of fourth-place Summer Palace.
After the race, Ortiz filed an objection. After the stewards reviewed that objection, they ruled that Gaffalione had interfered with Ortiz and they disqualified Rochambeau to fourth, behind Summer Palace, awarding him third. I agree with all of this except I think Summer Palace also should have been placed in front of Rochambeau’s entry mate, Briefcase Bully based on BOTH curent Kentucky rules and on how the race played out.
As entries have become rare, such incidents are thankfully even more rare but they do come up. Borden said Kentucky stewards have discretion in such matters and that Kentucky regulations do not require them to put a horse that’s interfered with by an entry mate behind both (or all) parts of an entry. In reading the regulation, I would disagree.
The rule says, “In determining the extent of disqualification, the stewards shall consider the seriousness and circumstances of the incident and may:”
The rule then lists six different actions that the stewards can take. Those actions are:
“(a) Disqualify and place the offending horse, and any horses coupled with it as an entry, behind any horse that may have suffered by reason of the foul;”
“(b) Disqualify and declare the offending horse, and any horses coupled with it as an entry, unplaced;”
“(c) Disqualify the offending horse, and any horses coupled with it as an entry, from participation in all or any part of the purse;”
“(d) Declare void a track record set or equaled by a disqualified horse, or any horses coupled with it as an entry;”
“(e) Affirm the placing judges' order of finish and suspend the jockey if, in the stewards' opinion, the foul riding had no effect on the order of finish;”
“or (f) Disqualify the offending horse and not suspend the jockey if, in the stewards' opinion, the interference to another horse in a race was not the result of an intentional foul or careless riding on the part of the jockey.”
Borden told me the foul was a result of careless riding so “f” doesn’t apply. “e” also does not apply as the stewards did make a change to the order of finish. There was no track record in this case so “d” also does not apply.
When we look at the three other options that involve disqualification or removing a placing, the Kentucky stewards can carry out after an objection is filed, a, b, and c are the three options and all three require action against the “offending horse, and any horses coupled with it as an entry, behind any horse that may have suffered by reason of the foul.”
In the case of this race, the stewards placed Summer Palace ahead of the horse and rider that committed the foul, Rochambeau. This is in line with option “a” but the stewards failed to follow the rule as outlined for option “a” which requires the offending horse, and any horses coupled with it as an entry, be placed behind any horse that may have suffered by reason of the foul.
The rule is very specific that a horse fouled by an entry mate be placed in front of the horse and rider who committed the foul and any of its entry mates. It reads this way for a, b, and c, suggesting that this was a point of emphasis for the rulemakers.
I suspect the stewards are reading the “may” which comes ahead of the six different options as giving them latitude. I think this is a completely inaccurate reading of the rule. By my reading, “may,” as it’s used here, sets up the six different options that they MAY take. So among those options, any option that sees the stewards change the order of finish, which is what they did here, requires a horse affected by the interference to be placed ahead of the horse that interfered with it AND any of its entry mates.
There is no option in the rules for what the stewards did in this case: placing the horse who was interfered with ahead of the horse who caused the interference but not its entry mate.
I don’t think the stewards have the option to make the choice they made. Furthermore, I also don’t agree with the ruling the stewards made even if they do have this option.
Here is how they explained the decision on the Kentucky Downs site:
“An objection was lodged by the rider of fourth place #4 “Summer Palace” (Jose Ortiz) alleging interference by the rider of second place #1a “Rochambeau” (Tyler Gaffalione) in the stretch. After reviewing the race replay and interviewing the riders, the stewards determined that #1a drifted in and impeded #4 who was forced to take up. For the interference #1a was disqualified from second and placed fourth, behind #4. In addition the stewards determined that the actions of the rider of #1a were not intended to benefit the stablemate #1, who was therefore not included in the disqualification.”
I talked with Borden Saturday and she emphasized that the stewards did discuss the entry mate issues involved and determined that there was no intention by Gaffalione to commit a foul in order to help his entry mate. I am glad that they considered these issues but their ultimate decision, to me, still seems misguided. So if this discretion in fact exists, I think the standard should be “who benefitted?” as opposed to intention.
So let’s again look at how the late stages of the race played out.
At the quarter pole, Summer Palace was 1 ½ lengths behind Briefcase Bully and charged past that one like he was standing still in the stretch, quickly opening up 1 ½ lengths on Briefcase Bully in midstretch. If Summer Palace had not been fouled by Briefcase Bully's entrymate, Rochambeau, it's highly unlikely that Briefcase Bully would have finished ahead of Summer Palace.
So it’s fair to say Briefcase Bully benefitted from the foul committed by his entry mate. I agree that it’s unlikely Gaffalione intentionally committed a foul to help his entry mate but why should intention matter? The foul benefitted his entry mate and Summer Palace should have been placed second, ahead of both entry mates.
So I think even on the judgment call, the stewards got it wrong.
But as we already discussed, I think Kentucky rules require the stewards to put a horse interfered with by a horse who is part of an entry ahead of that horse and all its entry mates. These rules likely were written that way to not force the stewards to make the difficult judgment calls that they’re now making, and in this case, getting wrong.
As a further example, we can look at medication rules. For instance, stewards have disqualified horses who mistakenly raced on an illegal substance—say because of environmental contamination—even though no owner or trainer intended for that horse to race on that substance. In these cases, intention is not the standard as the horse is still disqualified, although a lack of intention can mitigate penalties for the trainer. Carrying this over to interference calls involving entry mates, the intention of a rider should not be a factor in these types of calls.
As it is, I think if Kentucky regulators intend for the stewards to have discretion in these calls involving entry mates, the rules need to be rewritten to clearly note that this discretion exists. Currently the rules do not clearly grant that discretion.
If Kentucky regulators should decide to rewrite the rules to specifically give stewards this discretion in interference calls involving entry mates, the standard should be if the stewards determine the entry mate benefitted from the foul as opposed to intent of the rider that committed the foul, when determining if the fouled horse should go ahead of both/all entry mates.
Mind reading should not be part of a steward's job—determining the intention of one rider to help an entry mate.