03/06/2011 12:32AM

Big ’Cap no DQ


Stewards screwed up by not disqualifying the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap.

“Total bull-….,” one trainer said.

Stewards made the right call by letting the order of finish stand.

“If you’re unsure, don’t change it,” said another observer.

No middle ground allowed. Split decision? Majority rule.

Steward Kim Sawyer voted to disqualify the Big ’Cap winner for causing interference at the top of the stretch. Tom Ward and Scott Chaney voted to let the result stand.

By a 2-1 vote, the Big ’Cap was declared official 12 minutes after Game on Dude, Setsuko and Quindici Man finished one-two-three. Twirling Candy had an impossible trip and finished fifth. His coronation as best horse in America must wait for another day.

In the meantime, there will be plenty to debate.

At the top of the stretch in the Big ’Cap, there were three across the track – Game on Dude inside, Twirling Candy between, and Setsuko outside.

What happened next, and how stewards ruled, is the source of controversy.

It initially appeared Game on Dude drifted out under left-hand whipping, which squeezed Twirling Candy. He steadied and dropped out.

Setsuko, on the outside, got bumped hard in the chain reaction. He took all the worst of it. On that account, the three stewards agreed.

“We held (Setsuko) blameless, and he was clearly interfered with,” Chaney said. “So the question was, who’s to blame – the inside horse (Game on Dude) or the middle horse (Twirling Candy)?”

If the middle horse (Twirling Candy) was to blame, there could be no change because Twirling Candy finished behind Setsuko. But if stewards ruled it was winner Game on Dude that caused the interference, then he would have to come down.

“(Twirling Candy) initiated contact,” Chaney stated. “Our determination was (Game on Dude) maintained a straight course.”

That view was shared by Chaney and Ward, who said Twirling Candy came in and bumped first with Game on Dude. In their opinion, it was Twirling Candy that instigated it all. Game on Dude subsequently came back out, but Chaney said “it’s really Twirling Candy that caused the ping-ponging.”

Meanwhile, Sawyer held that Twirling Candy and Game on Dude were both at fault. She believed their mutual ricochet forced Twirling Candy to knock into Setsuko.

“Twirling Candy and (Game on Dude) I felt had equal contact, and (Setsuko) was the one that got bothered,” Sawyer said. “I think they came in, and out, equal amounts and they bumped into (Setsuko).”

Sawyer would have disqualified Game on Dude and placed him second, behind Setsuko. Twirling Candy, because he finished behind those two, would not be penalized.

Game on Dude’s trainer Bob Baffert reached stewards by phone while they debated. “They wouldn’t talk to me,” he said. Baffert was asked what he wanted to say to the stewards. “What did I want to say? I can’t remember.”

For better or worse, the 2011 Big ‘Cap is one few will ever forget.

Frank E. Kilroe recap

Fluke and Caracortado were separated by a head in the fastest turf mile of the meet (1:33.50). The difference was explained by winning jockey Rafael Bejarano.

“I stayed on the rail and waited,” he said. Bejarano kept Fluke ($7.40) fifth on the rail in the strung-out field. The outcome was decided by Bejarano’s decision at the quarter pole.

Rather than swing to the outside, Bejarano cut the corner with Fluke. That left only one option. He would have to rally inside horses in the stretch, scraping paint past tired rivals. That can be a tough spot.

On the far turn, jockey Joe Talamo had positioned Caracortado directly right behind Fluke. Into the stretch, Talamo swung Caracortado outside for a clear run.

That was the difference. When Caracortado swung outside, Fluke cut the corner and gained instant separation from his rival, at least two lengths.

Both horses finished. Fluke found a seam along the rail; Caracortado split horses outside. Caracortado had all the momentum, but Fluke would not let him by.

It was a good race by two good turf milers who are likely to meet again. Lost in the Kilroe shuffle was an outstanding comeback by Acclamation. He was hounded through an insane pace, stuck in to inside the eighth pole, and tired to fifth.

Acclamation, a Grade 1 winner, is back. He will be a California force in the spring-summer turf stakes.

Santa Anita Oaks recap

It sure was refreshing to hear a winning trainer offer objective, critical analysis after a Grade 1.

Turbulent Descent ($4) was fully extended to win the mile and a sixteenth Santa Anita Oaks, after which a candid Mike Puype crossed off the Kentucky Oaks from her list of objectives.

“She’s going to need to cut back in distance,” Puype said. “We were maxed out at a mile and a sixteenth today.” He said Turbulent Descent (4-for-5) was likely to aim toward one-turn races in New York including the Acorn at Belmont and Test at Saratoga.

The frank assessment by Puype makes sense. Turbulent Descent won the Oaks in a moderate 1:41.05 with a perfect trip behind a slow pace.

The grinding finish by runner-up Zazu was okay. She should run on. It was five and one-half lengths back to third place A Z Warrior, racing for the first time in four months. A Z Warrior also may aim for a sprint campaign later this spring in New York.

The filly distance division was shallow this winter; California’s leading Kentucky Oaks hope was out most of the season. She is Dan Hendricks-trained Rigoletta, winner of the Oak Leaf last fall and fifth in a good recent comeback sprint. Rigoletta will stretch out for her next start, expected to be March 12 the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

luresdouble More than 1 year ago
Stewards absolutely made the correct call. You do not take down a horse unless it is clearly evident that they initiated an infraction, and the tape indicates that Game on Dude's troubles were the result of being sideswiped from slightly behind by Twirling Candy. Setsuko also was not blameless as the stewards claim. Espinoza clearly leaned him in on Twirling Candy at the top of the stretch, attempting to cut the corner and intimidate him, Twirling Candy then shied to the inside and then struck Game on Dude, effectively sideswiping him which led to the pinball effect. At the sixteenth pole Setsuko was actually in the lead and Espinoza then attempted his second act of intimidation by slowly and steadily attempting to ride Game on Dude in toward the rail. The best horse won and the interference was all initiated by Setsuko and Twirling Candy. When a horse gets sideswiped like Game on Dude did they usually do not just recover their balance in a single stride or two, anyone who has ever actually ridden a horse knows that. I know because I used to outride at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. Correct no call was made.
wood More than 1 year ago
You have to watch the head-on view. The first bump was minor, Twirling Candy's right side on Setsuko's left. That sends Twirling Candy to his left, toward Game on Dude, and then they bump. When Twirling Candy and Game on Dude first bump, it completely knocks Game on Dude off balance, he loses his legs right out from under him. So Game on Dude corrects to his right to get his feet back, and that's when Game on Dude really smashes into Twirling Candy hard. So who's fault was it? The horse who started some minor bumping. Or the horse that got bumped, but then totally smashes into the horse that bumped it. I think it was Twirling Candy's. Rosario is trying to sqeeze threw a hole and there was one there, but once he makes contact with Game on Dude, because he was bouncing off Setsuko, its his fault. Game on Dude clearly smashes into Twirling Candy a lot harder, but Game on Dude did not start the bumping.
Dave More than 1 year ago
The stewards (two of them, anyway) got it right. Twirling Candy made first contact, started the demolition derby himself. Everything else is academic.
Del More than 1 year ago
It's kind of interesting that last year in the Santa Anita Derby, Lookin at Lucky was cut off by Who's Up, which was ridden by Espinoza. Baffert received the short end of the stick on that one. This year it's Espinoza who got the raw deal. Who's Up wasn't a serious contender in that race and finished well back. Baffert couldn't be compensated on that one. I feel the stewards made it up to him. Problem is Setsuko is the innocent player and would have won the race if not for getting injured. That horse is a runner. Watch him in last years Santa Anita Derby, it was on April 3. You can see the replay on Calracing.com.
tony More than 1 year ago
However they finish on the track that is the way it should stand ... The stewards could still their jobs and hand out fines/days for infractions as they do now for out-of-the-money situations, and we would not have this situation. It gives the sport a bad feel. A 12-minute inquiry is ridiculous.
SamG More than 1 year ago
I thought it was a very tough call. Even if it was wrong, saying it was a horrible call or "the worst call ever" is an overeaction. I saw it the same as TonyTonto ... How much whipping had to do with it I'm not sure but I think it's time to get rid of the whips. Too many times horses interfere while trying to get away from the whip and I'm sure the whipping turns off some would-be fans. Getting rid of them would be some instant good publicity for a sport that sorely needs it.
J.C. Conway More than 1 year ago
Didn't have a dime bet, but anyone says Game on Dude drifted out either had a bet on another horse or needs their eyes examined. All three horses were in unison around the turn and the centdf horse ran into the hind quarter of Game on Dude. Don't look at the horses, look at the track and their feet. The center horse came in on the hind quarter of Game on Dude. Simple as that.
Del More than 1 year ago
A picture doesn't lie. Sutherland came out two lanes. Use the paved portion along the rail as a reference. The stewards were simply wrong.
Gene F. More than 1 year ago
if you watch the slow-mo head on frame by frame, the very first contact is where Setsuko comes in slightly and hits Twirling Candy on the shoulder ... just a split second after that ... Twirling Candy in and clearly bumps Game on Dude's hind quarters which causes Game on Dude to turn right as if knocked off balance and then bumped hard with Twirling Candy and Setsuko. Many times horses are carried wide entering the stretch and as long as no one checks all is good ... it was a rough few seconds but I have seen a lot worse in 40 years that didn't even get a stewards' inquiry ... maybe only a jock's objection and they seldom win those ... just my opinion but it wasn't the worst call I've seen ... not by a long shot.
philly More than 1 year ago
Game on Dude changing paths at a critical moment (instructions to whip left-handed only) initiated the contact. Trevor had it right, stewards got it totally wrong. We'll never know if Twirling Candy had enough in the tank as he never got a chance after being pinballed. It was a debacle and the decision a disgrace. Thank God for the athletic ability of Joel Rosario and Twirling Candy for not going down ...