08/04/2012 1:31PM

Del Mar: Claiming rule to be put to the test following Friday breakdown


DEL MAR, Calif. – A controversial new state rule regarding claiming of injured horses will be on the front-burner this month at Del Mar, owing to a protest over the claim of a horse on Friday, and a California Horse Racing Board meeting later this month during which the rule is scheduled to be discussed.

At issue is whether, and when, a claim goes through when a horse suffers a catastrophic injury that necessitates the horse being euthanized.

In Friday’s final race, the 3-year-old filly Elivette broke down inside the furlong pole and was finally brought to a halt by jockey Rafael Bejarano just past the finish line. She was so severely injured that, after leaving the track, she was euthanized.

But Elivette, who was trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, was claimed out of the race for $12,500 by Demitrius Xanthos, who races as Fortuna Ranch Racing. According to the new racing board rule, had Elivette been euthanized immediately on the track, the claim would have been voided. But since she was taken from the track and euthanized minutes later, the claim went through.

Steve Rothblum, a former trainer who manages Xanthos’s stable, on Saturday morning at Del Mar said he was going to file a protest on Xanthos’s behalf over the claim going through, believing that the new rule puts the ontrack veterinarians in a terrible position and leads, in this case, to unnecessary suffering.

“You’re putting pressure on the state vet to play God,” Rothblum said. “The claim should be voided. That’s the spirit of the law. But what was really terrible is that the filly was made to suffer for 15 more minutes while getting her off the track and back to the barn. We put her down as soon as she got back to the barn. The rule should be abolished. It’s a stupid thing.”

Doug O’Neill, who would have been Elivette’s new trainer, on Saturday said his “main focus was the filly.”

“It’s a horrible, sad situation,” he said.

Mike Marten, a spokesman for the racing board, said that an original proposal for the new rule would have resulted in the Elivette claim being voided, but that after many meetings and industry input, the current rule was adopted. He said that the rule is scheduled for discussion on Aug.  24, when the board’s medication and track safety committee meets at Del Mar

Big money for Cal-breds

The new Golden State Series for California-bred and –sired runners has been a bonanza for those eligible for the races, including Unusual Heatwave, who won the Real Good Deal Stakes for 3-year-olds on Friday.

The Real Good Deal had been a $100,000 race in its 14 most recent runnings, but the purse was doubled this year because of the new series.

“How can you pass up $200,000?” said Alexis Barba, who trains Unusual Heatwave. “That’s the bottom line.”

Unusual Heatwave earned $120,000 for the win and has now earned more than $400,000 despite never having placed in a graded stakes race, such is the lucrative nature of Cal-bred racing these days. He has won three times in 12 starts, his biggest previous victory coming in April in the Snow Chief Stakes for Cal-breds at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Unusual Heatwave, by Unusual Heat, was bred and is owned by Ellen and Peter Johnson and Teresa McWilliams.