Inquiry in the seventh race at Sunland Park on March 3 led to a mistaken disqualification
The board of stewards at Sunland Park in New Mexico mistakenly disqualified a Quarter Horse from second to fourth place on March 3, and the executive director of the state racing commission has issued an apology to horseplayers who may have lost money as a result of the error.
Raul Saucedo’s A Separate Star, breaking from the No. 2 post position and ridden by Omar Iturralde, was beaten a neck in the 400-yard claiming race, but shortly after the field of 10 crossed the finish line the stewards lit the inquiry sign. After about two minutes of deliberations, they disqualified A Separate Star for interference and placed him fourth.
As with many disqualifications, horseplayers took to social media to complain. In this case, their complaints were entirely legitimate. At no point in the race did A Separate Star interfere with or come close to any of his rivals.
Izzy Trejo, executive director of the New Mexico Racing Commission, said the stewards erred in the disqualification. A second set of stewards will review the race on Thursday, March 9, and issue a ruling that is expected to restore the original order of finish.
It’s not clear if the stewards who made the wrong call will be sanctioned.
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Pari-mutuel payoffs will not be affected. While the owner will get about $5,500 in additional purse money once the order of finish is corrected, those who bet on A Separate Star to place or show or in exactas and trifectas apparently will not be compensated. A total of $14,584 was wagered in win, place, and show bets, $13,641 in exactas, and $8,247 in trifectas.
“We want to apologize to the people who put their hard-earned money on this race,” said Trejo, who called the incident an “oversight” by stewards Connie Estes, Gary Terrien, and David Lupo.
“These are good stewards and I applaud them for being honest and admitting to the error, immediately after it happened,” said Trejo. “They took the blame from the get-go. Despite that, we do owe an apology to the wagering public that bet on this race.”
While the stewards may have admitted their error to Trejo, no public statement was issued when the mistake was discovered.
Trejo said he could not comment on how the mistake was made until after the March 9 hearing, though one Sunland Park horseperson who asked not to be identified said, “Word around here is they watched the wrong replay.”
The track’s television feed showed the correct head-on replay multiple times while the stewards deliberated. At most tracks, that feed represents what the stewards are viewing. If they were watching the wrong replay, it’s worth noting that in the previous race, the horse breaking from the same No. 2 post position veered out causing a chain reaction at the start. There was no inquiry or disqualification from that incident as the horse finished seventh.