11/10/2001 12:00AM

Appeal overturns photo-finish

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FORT ERIE, Ont. - In an extraordinary move, trainer Don MacRae challenged the official result of a Sept. 16 race at Fort Erie - via the photo-finish.

The Ontario Racing Commission stewards had declared a dead heat for the win between Sweeping Eva and Nabethian, a horse MacRae trains for Robert Saviola.

The appeal, heard by a panel Oct. 31, was successful. The proper order of finish was determined to be Nabethian first, Sweeping Eva second.

MacRae questioned the original outcome after he examined a posted black-and-white print of the finish. With his knowledge of horses, he was convinced that the inside horse, Nabethian, had to be the winner.

"The other horse would have had to have an extended nose," said MacRae, who pointed out that the photo he scrutinized was clearer and a little lighter than the one used by the officials. "From the photo they had, it was very tough to make a decision," he said. "We got lucky with the different brightness and shadow."

MacRae has displayed a sharp eye throughout the year. Success in the claiming game has propelled the 25-year-old into fourth place in the Fort Erie trainer standing. With four days remaining in the meet he had a healthy 28 percent win average (30 wins, 108 starts).

- By Tuesday, Chris Griffith could become the first rider to reach the $2 million plateau in purse earnings in a single year at Fort Erie. Going into Saturday, Griffith's mounts had amassed a total of $1,923,653 in purses in 2001.