09/04/2013 2:35PM

Harness Controversy


There are plenty of topics to cover this week and I have an opinion on all of them.

Let’s start with the controversial non-disqualification in the Metro Pace final. Driver Sylvain Filion was trapped along the cones with eventual winner Boomboom Ballykeel and tried to find room in mid-stretch to angle out. He moved slightly to his right and quickly corrected back into position when room was unavailable. At the same time that Boomboom Ballykeel moved to his right, Lets Drink On It, driven by Jim Morrill,Jr., moved a hair to his left.

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The contact was minimal, if any, between the two horses. But as a result, Morrill corrected slightly to the right to avoid any possibility of trouble. This move to the right resulted in contact (locking wheels) between Lets Drink On It and Some Major Beach.

After a long inquiry, racing officials decided not to take action and left Boomboom Ballykeel as the winner. Many may argue that Filion moving to his right caused the entire incident. My view is that if Morrill would have continued a straight path in the stretch, he never would have locked wheels. In fact, second-place finisher Western Vintage or third-place finisher (and locked wheels victim) Some Major Beach would have won.

You can watch the inquiry review here

Morrill was issued a three-day suspension for the incident. I’m not sure that was fair, either. If he felt that there was a dangerous situation and was trying to avoid it, a fine is not warranted. That said, if another driver was in the bike, there is a reasonable chance that he reacts differently and there is no stretch incident.

In the end, after watching the pan-camera and head-on replays, I just don’t see definitive evidence that the incident was Filion’s fault. It is one of those circumstances where you could argue both sides and whatever the judges would have decided, I would have been okay with it.

Speaking of definitive, the other incident which is getting plenty of publicity in the social media world revolves around driver Tim Tetrick’s possible actions in the Cane Pace. Tetrick, driving Captaintreacherous, clearly allowed his right leg to leave the stirrup multiple times during the stretch drive. Many people are using that as clear evidence he kicked his horse to spur him to a better effort.

There is no doubt that Tetrick’s leg was swinging around in the stretch. But there was also no conclusive video evidence showing that his foot made any contact with his charge. While Tetrick takes all of the heat, the driver of second-place finisher Word Power, Jody Jamieson, also allowed his leg to leave the stirrup in the stretch.

Certain jurisdictions have rules against a driver’s feet leaving the stirrup. New York is not one of those states. The rules simply state: “Drivers are prohibited from kicking, punching, or jabbing a horse…” Nowhere in the explanation does it say their legs cannot flail around.

While I won’t confess to being Tetrick’s best friend, I’d like to think I know him well enough to see what kind of a person he is. I have a hard time believing that Tetrick would do anything to hurt a horse, no less one of the caliber of Captaintreacherous. Tetrick is a competitor at the top of his sport and with that comes some natural desire to win. When in the heat of battle things instinctually happen. As someone who has driven a few horses, I can attest that my leg has unintentionally flown out of the stirrup in the stretch while whipping. Rest assured, I did not make any contact with the horse.

I’m not bold enough to say Tetrick never does anything wrong on the track, and if he or anyone else is kicking their horse in the stretch, well, that is unacceptable. But I’ll stand up alone (certainly seems that way listening to some comments on Twitter) and back up Tetrick in the case of the Cane.

Quick thoughts . . .

One of the most fined drivers in history for his inability to keep his feet in the stirrups, Walter Case, Jr., is having an appeal hearing on September 10 in Pennsylvania as he continues his quest to return to the sulky. He has kept his nose clean for years and seems to deserve one final shot. Time will tell . . .

Let me touch on the issue of the fast times at Pocono Downs. The track is very fast; enough said. The notion that Pocono’s surface is secretly less than one mile just seems too farfetched for me. Did anyone stop and think that perhaps the surface has always been fast but we are only seeing the record results in recent years because of the high level of competition fueled by the casino-driven purses?

Switching venues to Hoosier Park . . . the Trakus system made its debut on September 3 and provides some interesting insight into how each race is contested. You can actually go on www.hoosierpark.com and watch various animated views of each race. You can see the horses from the driver angle, from above and from the side. It had me craving for a top-notch harness racing video game.

We are just two weeks from the Little Brown Jug and the connections of Captaintreacherous have yet to decide whether he will compete. Regardless of The Captain’s plans, I’ll be on track tweeting live (@drfharness) and posting plenty of pictures on our facebook page. It’s good stuff. Check it out!

DRF will also be showing the entire card LIVE for both Jugette and Jug day.

Last year many marveled at A Rocknroll Dance posting 11 consecutive sub 1:50 miles. This year he topped that accomplishment with three consecutive sub 1:48 miles. I’m not sure if it is a record, but I can’t even remember a horse winning three times in under 1:48 during a year, no less in a row. A Rocknroll Dance is just a couple of wins and $368,439 in earnings from passing the great Rock N Roll Heaven as the richest son of Rocknroll Hanover.

[UPDATE: The USTA's research guru David Carr (along with an assist from Gordon Waterstone) did the research. A Rocknroll Dance is the first horse to win three consecutive races in under 1:48. Holborn Hanover (2006) and We Will See (2011) accomplished the feat of three winning miles of 1:48 or lower but not in a row.]

Last but not least . . . how about the battle for Horse of the Year? Captaintreacherous and Bee A Magician are neck and neck for the top spot with I Luv The Nitelife in stalking position. For my money Bee A Magician is the leader unless she loses a race or Captaintreacherous does something out of this world (new world record clocking or victory in Meadowlands TVG FFA Championship versus older horses). It sure is a lot of fun to watch.

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