Did the Del Mar stewards make the right call?

There were boos from many at Del Mar on Sunday when track announcer Trevor Denman announced the stewards were making no change in the $300,000 Del Mar Derby’s order of finish, that Twirling Candy had been declared the official winner despite blatantly fouling Summer Movie around the turn into the backstretch.

Steward Scott Chaney, who met with reporters to explain the judges’ decision, said interference doesn’t necessarily mean a horse has to come down. He told reporters that to disqualify Twirling Candy and place him last would have been wrong, that there was no way to determine how much the foul cost Summer Movie, who finished last, beaten 6 3/4 lengths by the fifth-place horse.

“To disqualify a horse in any race, let alone a Grade 2, on any sort of guessing game would be highly unusual from a steward’s perspective,” Chaney said. “Usually when we disqualify a horse, and as you know we disqualify very few here in Southern California, we’re fairly certain it cost the horse a specific amount.”

While Chaney is correct in the assertion that any effort to deterrmine how many lengths the interference cost Summer Movie is pure speculation, it’s also correct to wonder how a horse, no matter how much the best, can interfere with a horse so badly and still have his number stay up.

Even after the foul, jockey Victor Espinoza was able to steer Summer Movie back into contention heading into the second turn until the horse lost his steam in the stretch, at which point Espinoza totally wrapped him up and made no effort to coax him through the lane.

After the race, Espinoza wondered if Summer Movie had been injured. Trainer Art Sherman said he had indeed been nicked up a bit and Sherman told the San Diego Union Tribune this morning that the horse had a bad ankle and was generally sore all over less than 24 hours after the race.

We’re talking about a fine line here. Wheras Twirling Candy was much the best in his fourth consecutive victory without defeat, it’s also true he fouled and injured another horse in the race. Should he get away with that?

Where Chaney and the stewards were totally wrong was making a final decision before talking to Espinoza. Chaney said Espinoza was slow getting to the phone and the stewards were not going to wait any longer, but their job was to call down and make sure he got to the phone. They are the ones in charge and they should have acted accordingly.

A few years ago, New York racing had something known as the “New York Rule,” that if a horse fouled another he was automatically disqualified. That has since been amended to allow the stewards more leeway.

I was OK with Sunday’s decision because the stewards were going to be criticized no matter what they did, but I can’t get over the fact a horse was injured because of the interference and the offending horse’s number stayed up.

Yes, it’s difficult to determine how much the foul actually cost Summer Movie, and Twirling Candy was much the best and deserved to win the race, but somehow the whole thing just leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

There has to be a better way.

5 thoughts on “Did the Del Mar stewards make the right call?

  1. The Stews have been doing this for awhile now by “predicting” what the outcome of the race will be. They need to put away the Racing Forms and make decisions based on fouls. For them to say that Summer Movie wasn’t cost a placing is absurd. How do they know for sure? The only thing that is for sure is that Summer Movie was impeded and he is back in his barn lame now because of the incident.

  2. Speaking from experience, The Stewards really do need to make the right call. In the old days Twirling Candy would have been DQ’d with no hesistation.
    The stewards were gutless and trying to play Carnac in a race is wrong. The old guard would never had allowed it.

  3. As far as disqualifications of a horses actual finishing position in a race go less is always better. When there are doubts the stewards should never DQ a horse. If stewards DQ too many horses it changes what the horses are dictating on the track. And it gives the stewards too much control over who wins and loses the horse race. When at all possible let the horses decide, and let the natural order stand. This includes some bumping and traffic problems. Only when it is clearly flagrant, and it affects the order of finish should a horse ever be taken down. Twirling candy should not have been taken down it was impossible to say it altered the order of finish, possibly summer games would have finish last anyway. The only people that were hoping that the horse got taken down is people that dont bet the race the way it actually looks on paper They were hoping for a miracle or some very bad luck for the obvious. If anybody should be rewarded it is the betters who handicap a race the proper way, and not purposely betting long shots hoping that the favorite falls down

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