Still image from patrol films of Delaware Park race on June 25
Horseplayers like to complain. They invent more conspiracies than Rudy Giuliani. I’ve hung around the track long enough and gotten enough emails, phone calls and text messages to have heard everything from how the photo finish operator is shaving off noses to how stewards work in cahoots with jockeys to cash a bet.
But sometimes they have a point.
The No. 1 complaint I hear from horseplayers is how inquiries and objections are judged by the stewards and the lack of explanation on their decisions.
This week, for example, I received an email from a reader who brought up a jockey’s objection and inquiry involving three horses in the stretch run of the fifth race at Delaware Park on June 25. A horse named Doc Rock was battling for the lead at the top of the stretch when eventual winner Mapache G loomed up on his outside and lugged inward. At the same time, eventual runner-up Bushwick Bruiser, racing to Doc Rock’s inside, came outward, forcing Joseph Trejos to take up on Doc Rock, who wound up finishing last in the nine-horse field.
The horseplayer didn’t understand why stewards allowed the result to stand.
As I always do when I get this type of complaint, I go to the videotape to see the replay (Racetrack Television Network is my go-to source for live simulcasts or replays). My take was that there was definitely interference, both from Doc Rock’s inside and outside. Whether it was enough to merit a disqualification, I couldn’t be sure.
The official Equibase chart provided some insight on the non-DQ, something that Equibase charts don’t always do. The footnotes stated that “after reviewing the replays the stewards ruled the race would be as is, saying the two horses involved were tiring in the stretch.”
But there’s another source that provided an even better explanation, and that’s the purpose of today’s column.
To their credit, the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission posts daily stewards’ reports on every race, and they publish them on their website on a timely basis. The daily report for June 25 addressed the aforementioned incident:
“Inquiry/Objection – #3 Doc Rock (Trejos) against #1 Bushwick Bruiser (Crispin) in the stretch, Inquiry on #5 Mapache G (Spanabel) in the stretch. Stewards determined that #3 and #9 were racing together in the stretch when #1 came on the inside taking a step out as #5 was coming on the outside lugging in a bit causing tight quarters inside to #9 and #3. Stewards made no change based on their decision that both #3 and #9 were both out of horse and the actions of #1 and #5 did not change the outcome of the race. Stewards will conduct movies to address this issue. Movies – Crispin, Trejos, Spanabel and Mena.”
This did a couple of things. First, it explained why stewards didn’t disqualify either of the top two finishers. Secondly, it taught horseplayers that the stewards’ job isn’t finished when they hang the “official” sign after a race. They will require the four jockeys involved to attend a screening of the race and explain, from their perspective, what happened, after which stewards may or may not take action against the riders involved in the incident.
Racing commissions in other states, including California and Kentucky, post similar reports on their websites. While the New York State Gaming Commission stopped publishing stewards reports on their website in 2020, the New York Racing Association website at least posts explanations of steward’s decisions in races where there are inquiries or jockey objections.
Daily (preferably) or weekly stewards reports are good for the game. They are educational for horseplayers, fans, horse owners, and trainers. If the officiating is competent, the transparency of the reports should instill confidence in the stewards and in the game itself.
Congratulations to those racing states that publish these reports. You are helping the game. Those states that aren’t publishing the reports are doing a disservice to the betting public. Please do better.
One final note. As a part-time horseplayer, I do have just one little complaint.
It’s not easy jumping around from one racing commission website to another and trying to find these reports. And no two states have anything resembling similar reports.
There is an organization, the Racing Officials Accreditation Program (ROAP), that offers continuing education and accreditation for racing officials. ROAP is closely tied to The Jockey Club, which is a co-owner of Equibase, racing’s official database. All three organizations share the same address on Corporate Drive in Lexington, Ky.
Perhaps one morning over coffee, representatives of The Jockey Club, Equibase and ROAP could develop a plan for a standardized stewards report that every racing state would be encouraged to use. Those reports could be published on the Equibase website alongside official charts of each race. It really isn’t that complicated.
That’s my view from the eighth pole.