01/16/2014 1:02PM

Harness Racing: To DQ or not to DQ?


Few occurrences in racing bring about more controversy than a disqualification. Just like when a National Football League referee goes under the hood of the camera and rules in favor of one team or another, judges are entrusted with the unenviable task of deciding right from wrong on the track.

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On Friday (1/10) at The Meadowlands, Marty Party crossed the wire first but was found to have caused interference to Cheyenne Miriam and subsequently placed fourth. Marty Party and driver Ron Pierce attempted to make the lead but was having a hard time getting around the headstrong Stage It Right. Pierce, never afraid to make a bold maneuver, elected to take a hold of his charge and try to squeeze into the pocket. As he began to make his way to the pylon position, Cheyenne Miriam was still occupying at least part of that spot and driver David Miller had to check his horse slightly to avoid incident.

Watch it for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQucWJyhlHs&list=PLghiEX0nhWEwgtsBdhBU5LuHW5nzcsuzk&index=20

At least that is the way I originally saw the incident. I watched it a few times as the judges reviewed the action on the live feed and concluded that Pierce’s horse should be taken down. Shortly after, I had the joy of viewing an interview with Pierce live from the Meadowlands’ paddock (great job by the track getting him on the air to explain his side). Pierce explained the situation from his standpoint, saying that he was waiting on the outside for room to develop and he did not make his move until clearance existed. He added that how it looks on the camera is often different than what drivers see on the track.

My first thought was that Pierce was simply just sour over the situation and his statements were somewhat irrelevant when the video evidence seemed to present a different picture.

Fast forward to Sunday night . . . while watching the Meadowlands Replay Show, I decided to think about what Pierce said while watching the race. With the knowledge from Pierce, I saw the on-track events in an entirely new light. After grabbing hold of his horse, Pierce clearly idles on the rim for a moment before lining up along the pylons. Did Miller check his horse slightly? Yes. But after watching a few times, part of me sees Miller urging his horse on to keep the hole closed and the action of grabbing his horse as an admission that his horse just couldn’t accomplish that task.

Let’s also add into the conversation that while checked briefly, Miller’s horse did not lose any momentum (though it certainly changed his tactics as the race progressed) and none of the trailers behind him were affected. Which leads to the question: Was the disqualification necessary?

According to Miller, the answer is a resounding yes. Miller, who admitted that the judges never asked for his opinion (which is a bit troubling in my view), said he thought Pierce had about three-quarters of a length (less than what is needed to fit a horse and sulky) and he was none too happy with Pierce’s decision.

“If he was driving on the road you’d call him reckless and be cursing him out,” said Miller. “He definitely interfered with me and I didn’t like it.”

My rule of thumb is that you only take a horse and driver down if there is no doubt their actions were improper. In this case, while I can’t crucify the Judges for their decision (hey, even I originally was fine with the DQ), I’m left with doubt. What do you think?


John Lyons More than 1 year ago
from watching the video just once and I will admit I was concentrating on the close up shot of the leaders -- I thought he had enough room to take the tuck and didnt see Millers horse being taken up -- I thing it was a bad DQ -- if I had a bet on Pierce's horse I would be totally pissed -- just my humble opinion
Roger Wiskavitch More than 1 year ago
Saw the race. Pierce was wrong.
nick More than 1 year ago
Dear Mr. Giwner, So why do you give weight to what Mr. Pierce claims, but not to what Mr. Miller says?. Mr. Miller is convinced that he was interfered with. And, sir, your statement that 'while checked briefly, Miller's horse didn't lose any momentum' is absurd on it's face. From basic physics, any time an object is travelling at a certain velocity it has a certain momentum(momentum equals mass times velocity.) When a horse has to check, it slows down(loses velocity), and therefore loses momentum. It then takes increased energy output to regain the previous velocity, and momentum. And, if this happens to Cheyenne Miriam, it has to happen to all horses behind her, or else they all pile into each other. Mr. Pierce tried to punch into a hole where one did not exist. There is no doubt his actions were improper, and he paid a just price for it.
Derick More than 1 year ago
Nick - I began writing the column with only Pierce's comments because the track did not show an interview with Miller. I later called him and got his point of view to have both sides fairly accounted for. My view has nothing to do with what either driver said (though Pierce's comments made me think twice and watch the video again), it comes down to what I saw. I'm okay with the Judges' decision, but I don't think it was a 100% lock that it was the right decision. My whole point is that if the incident leaves doubt, you shouldn't take a horse down. On the point of momentum, Cheyenne Miriam hardly lost any ground and certainly not enough to effect her. If you would have argued that she lost position in the pocket, that is more of a fair argument.
Cyclops More than 1 year ago
Great topic Derick! I lean toward him not coming down. He should have kept the hole closed off but I guess he didn't want to use his horse to keep it closed. Can you give your opinion of this race at Woodbine on Monday? There was along inquiry after the 4th race on 1/13/14. I can't believe the #6 horse wasn't DQ'd! He bangs into the 1 horse to get out. Thanks!
Derick More than 1 year ago
I'll try to watch it.
AL More than 1 year ago
Ron Pierce is the reason John Campbell was put in the hospital years ago and the subject of a persoanl Law suit. They dont call him Dunderhead without a valid reason..
William Waters More than 1 year ago
If you're going to make accusations re. Ron Pierce, please furnish some details: a reference to a respected print or online publication, a specific court judgement, a quote from John Campbell, or the like. As for the "Dunderhead" moniker, Ron is not only a great driver, but a great person and a great interview: he drives to win (as he said in the New Big M interview) and he gives totally refreshing, honest and intelligent answers to questions, not the usual PC pap where the priority is to please the owner or trainer of a given horse.
Lawrence Vaccarelli More than 1 year ago
I agree with millers statement....not enough room....
nick More than 1 year ago
Dear Mr. Giwner, After reading Mr. Pierce's explanation and watching the replay I am left with the opinion that Mr. Pierce is disengenuous at best and outright lying, or maybe totally clueless, at worst. He says he waited on the outside for a hole to develope. How long did he wait, a half a second? It sure looks like he tried hard for the lead, and once he saw the 3/5 shot wasn't giving it up he pulled back and punched a hole in the garden spot; only trouble was .Marty Party was still in there. There was no waiting on the outside, as he claimed, he just backed his horse up and forced his way in. If Party's driver doesn't give it up, there is a chain reaction mess. I'm guessing if your driving a horse like Marty Party and you see Mr. Pierce doing what he did, you HAVE to give in, or you create an accident. You just back your horse up and hope the Stewards do their job. And it is perturbing that the Stewards didn't interview both drivers, unless they figured they were going to disqualify already and didn't need to do it.
nick More than 1 year ago
Sorry, I got the horse's names switched. Wherever I said Marty Party, use Cheyenne Miriam.
Derick More than 1 year ago
Nick - On the track going those speeds, a half-second or a second is quite a bit of time. Perhaps in Pierce's mind he was right . . . just like in Miller's head he was right. DG
The Big B More than 1 year ago
Watched replay a number of times. Have no problem with call. I get more upset when a driver lets' other drivers tuck in. Miller clearly didn't want to let him in. Pierce came close to jamming his way in where there was no room and Miller was seen checking his horse and causing a slight backup of trailing horses. Clearly interference in my eyes.
DavidM9999 More than 1 year ago
Derrick Can you share who the banned parties were related to the Cobalt testing.
Derick More than 1 year ago
The one name that is public already is Aaron Lambert.
John Watkins More than 1 year ago
This DQ call cost me a win ticket.Watching it 2 times, appears that Marty Party and Pierce were squeezed by a decelerating horse on the lead with Gingras and the Miller horse coming late to close the hole. Ok with the call but would have been good with no call.Will watch again now.