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.