Steward’s Corner

This past weekend at Gulfstream Park there were a few decisions that occurred off the racetrack that profoundly affected the racing results. Before going any further, I want to preface that I know racing stewards have a tough job, just like any official in organized sports. This just stood out as something more than a tough day at the office. In Saturday’s Fountain of Youth Stakes, Upstart was disqualified after a steward’s inquiry and jockey objection for interference during the stretch run. In reviewing the replays, especially the head on view, it looked clear to me and many others I know, that the inside horse, Frosted, clearly lugged out, which in turn caused Upstart to waver out and “apparently” interfered with Itsaknockout.

In my opinion, Upstart was moving best of all and was influenced out by Frosted who started the chain reaction. The rider of Itsaknockout (Luis Saez), also may have been attempting to win an Academy Award as he stopped riding, seemingly baiting the stewards into making the eventual disqualification and change in order of finish. My point is that officials are important and a part of the game, however; the product of racing shouldn’t be dictated by the calls officials make. Just like in Major League Baseball, umpires are human, they make mistakes but you never want a game to be remembered by an umpires call.

Don Denkinger was a great umpire, but one missed call in the 1985 World Series led him to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Denkinger may have gotten the call wrong, but he did not cause the St. Louis Cardinals to miss an easy catch on foul out and other subsequent plays that gave the game to the Kansas City Royals and eventually the win in the 1985 World Series.

Most fans just want the officiating to be consistent through the duration of a game. Whether it’s the physicality of a hockey hit, or the strike zone in baseball, just be consistent with the calls. Upstart got disqualified, ok, fine (agree with it or not). Then in the very next race the inside horse made contact twice with the outside horse, while lugging out badly down the stretch and after another review the results stand? These seemingly arbitrary decisions send mixed messages to the public and it has nothing to do with cashing tickets, it takes away from our ability to love and enjoy the sport for its own sake. Is a little consistency too much to ask?! We love racing and want to see fair results; cashing tickets are just a byproduct. Let racing be about the horses on the track and not the stewards in the press box.

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