06/30/2008 10:44AM

Mother Goose Justice?

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Should the determing factor in disqualifying a horse be a)whether a foul was committed or b)whether the foul affected the order of finish? If you believe in the former, Proud Spell deserved to be taken down from second to third in the Mother Goose Saturday. I believe in the latter, so I think it was a bad takedown that served neither parimutuel nor sporting justice.

Here's the race:

Forget about Proud Spell's awful trip -- the stumble at the start, the hesitant ride from Gabriel Saez as she gets trapped and finally shut off at the rail -- until she finally gets some daylight in deep stretch. She spurts past Never Retreat, though isn't quite clear of her when she comes out late and Never Retreat's rider checks.

Was that a foul? Yes. Did it affect the order of finish? Absolutely not. So why punish the bettors (I personally didn't have a nickel at stake on the decision) for a jockey error that did not change the outcome? The fairer thing to do is fine the rider, rather than the customers. Proud Spell drew $179k of a $206k place pool, and her disqualification produced the following wacky payoffs: Music Note paid $5.30 to win and $11.60 to place, and Never Retreat paid $20.00 to place. The dq also resulted in the redistribution of the entire $363,212 exacta pool, elevating the payout from around $8 to $36.40.

If there were any reasonable case that Never Retreat could have finished second, or if Hamsa had passed Never Retreat and the check had cost her third, Proud Spell should have come down. Instead, the technical recognition of a foul produced an unfair result. Some people believe that a foul is a foul is foul, but I would prefer to see the stewards exercise their judgment. Saez's share of the purse decreased from $5,000 to $2,500 with the dq -- why not just fine him $2500 instead of redirecting half a million in wagers?