02/15/2008 12:00AM

Appeal denied in Suwannee River result


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - By a vote of 2-1, a board of stewards on Thursday denied an appeal filed by the owners of La Dolce Vita and J'ray protesting Green Girl's victory in the $100,000 Suwannee River Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 3.

The connections of La Dolce Vita and J'ray, who finished second and third in the Grade 3 Suwannee River, alleged that Green Girl did not carry her weight from paddock to post after the filly tossed jockey Rene Douglas and ran off shortly after stepping onto the racetrack for the post parade.

Gulfstream Park was represented at the hearing by association stewards Jeffrey Noe and Chip Spencer, along with Bernie Hettel, a former steward who currently serves as the track's manager of racing operations. State Steward Kevin Scheen recused himself from the proceedings on the advice of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

Witnesses who testified at the three-hour hearing included Christophe Clement, the trainer of Green Girl; Mark Hennig, trainer of La Dolce Vita; track veterinarian Dr. Mary Scollay; starter Jeff Powell; and jockey Eibar Coa.

Representatives for La Dolce Vita contended that Green Girl violated Section D, Sub-section 7 of the House Rules governing racing at Gulfstream Park, which states a horse must carry its assigned weight from paddock to post and post to finish. They contended Green Girl spent approximately 10 to 11 minutes without any weight on her back before and after Douglas was thrown a second time upon trying to remount Green Girl once she had been caught by the track's outrider.

An attorney for Green Girl's connections countered by arguing that, under section 1B-5 of the same house statutes, stewards have the discretion to interpret the rules as they see fit and in this case exercised that discretion allowing Green Girl to compete.

"Obviously we're disappointed that, given the opportunity, the stewards didn't take time to reflect and realize they're the last line of defense to uphold the integrity of racing," said Hennig. "We're all for the safety of rider, but we can't lose focus that our game is about gambling and that the bettors need the confidence the rules will be upheld."

Hennig said that owner Gary Zwerling would appeal the latest decision to track management. Gulfstream's president, Bill Murphy, said the track would then follow protocol and appoint an outside arbitrator to rule on the second appeal.