Not Everyone’s a Winner - By Evan Hammonds

It’s not unusual to have two winners of a Thoroughbred race—even with advanced photo-finish equipment dead heats happen every once in a while, and we’re a little surprised they don’t happen more often. However, it’s hard to fathom how there are two “winners” of a race when they are four lengths apart at the wire, but that is exactly what racing officials in Pennsylvania are trying to lead us to believe.

In perhaps one of the more interesting rulings to come from a state racing authority, the State Horse Racing Commission Bureau of Thoroughbred Horse Racing in Pennsylvania declared last month there would be not one, but two winners of the 2016 Parx Oaks.

In last year’s Parx Oaks, run May 7, Main Line Racing Stable and Joshtylane Farm’s Miss Inclusive—trained by John Servis—finished first by four lengths but was later disqualified for testing positive for clenbuterol. Gryphon Investments’ Eighth Wonder was elevated to first and the $60,000 winner’s share of the purse was redistributed. Servis was handed a 15-day suspension.

However, an amended ruling dated May 19, 2017, signed by bureau director Tom Chuckas, the commission stated that: “Miss Inclusive shall be deemed to have finished first along with the horse Eighth Wonder, for the purpose of both maintaining each horse’s racing record and determining each horse’s eligibility to enter in future races, the forfeiture of the purse will remain in effect and the redistribution of the purse will stand and the 15-day suspension shall be modified to a $5,000 fine.”

In this unprecedented move the commission has allowed for both horses to be listed as the “winner” of the black type race (while the connections of Eighth Wonder retain the purse), along with a second-place finisher and a third-place finisher.

Say what?

The implications here go far beyond just the black-type that will appear on catalog pages for decades to come.

It’s more about rules—not only making them, but enforcing them instead of bending them. If a commission doesn’t deem its rules of racing regarding medication overages—or any other infraction for that matter—fair, then seek to change them, but by all means enforce them.

In an effort to stem the ramifications of the ruling nationally, Equibase, the industry-owned database of racing information and statistics, took its own action. On June 2 Equibase removed the official chart of the 2016 Parx Oaks, placing it under review and issuing a statement.

“Equibase has removed the official chart for this race from its website while we review the implications of this matter on our database and how the database should reflect the race results,” said Jason Wilson, president and COO of Equibase. “We view the integrity of the results and the data, and the clarity with which we can present it, to be paramount in this regard. We will inform the industry when a final determination about the official Equibase chart has been made.”

The move by Equibase—equally unprecedented—follows on the heels of the reintroduction of the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 by Reps. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). The Jockey Club’s James Gagliano makes a case for the federal legislation, pointing to several recent incidents, including the Pennsylvania ruling.

While there is a difference of opinion among racing’s many factions regarding the federal bill, certainly we can all agree on racing’s need for a “level playing field.” And that should apply to what goes on in the stable area and the racetrack as well as in any commission meeting.

State-based regulation—the status quo—may have worked once upon a time, but the malt shop closed a long time ago.This sport, long since national, has gone global. The time has come for national cohesiveness in the rules, regulations, and penalties in Thoroughbred racing.

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