09/14/2006 11:00PM

Charles Town admits error


Stewards at Charles Town Races in West Virginia on Friday ordered that the top two finishers in a race on Sept. 9 should be reversed because the placing judges mistakenly placed the wrong horse first.

The highly unusual move resulted in the redistribution of the $28,000 purse in the $15,000 claiming race, which was the second race on Sept. 9. In addition, the stewards said that penalties would be issued against the three placing judges at the track.

The order of finish will not be changed for the purposes of mutuel payouts, according to Danny Wright, the chief state steward at Charles Town. Racetracks typically do not address mutuel payouts when disqualifications occur as a result of an appeal of a race or drug positive.

Wright said that an investigation had revealed that the placing judges made the mistake because they did not review a mirror-image photograph. Stewards did not find any evidence that the placing judges acted deliberately or that the track's photographic equipment was inadequate or malfunctioning, Wright said.

"This was human error," Wright said. "Had the placing judges followed the proper protocols, the chances are that the mistake would not have been made."

Preston Herbst, trainer and owner of the horse originally placed second, appealed the official order of finish one day after the race took place. In the race, Seven Talents, the 2-1 favorite, was placed first, beating Kris Taylor, a 24-1 shot trained by Herbst, by a nose.

Herbst did not return a phone call on Friday.

Crystal Pickett, the Maryland-based trainer of Seven Talents, called the decision a "very unfortunate incident.

"That's one phone call you never expect to get," Pickett said. "For three days we thought we were the winner. You'd like to know after a race whether you're the definite winner, the definite loser, or in a dead heat. But I guess not in this case."

Wright said that all three judges were in the stand when the incident occurred, and that they admitted they had made a mistake at the Friday hearing.