04/30/2013 12:26PM

Dick Jerardi: Charles Town deserves credit for handling of Classic timing error

Coady Photography
Game On Dude ran the 1 1/8 miles of the Charles Town Classic about two seconds faster than the original timing of the race, a mistake that Charles Town officials corrected.

Every racetrack in America can learn a lesson from how Charles Town management handled the timing issue in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on April 20. As soon as the first fraction of 25.96 seconds was posted, it was clear that something was wrong.

There was simply no way Percussion, who was being sent to the lead, was going that slowly. And there was no way Game On Dude, racing second, went slower than 26 seconds for that first quarter-mile.

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The final time, obviously, was going to be affected by that slow first fraction. And it was.

Game On Dude won in a posted time of 1:52.27 for 1 1/8 miles. The Beyer Figure team was certain the time made no sense. So was Erich Zimny, the vice president of racing at Charles Town.

I hand-timed the race the next morning. It was approximately two seconds faster than the original time. I e-mailed Randy Moss to ask him to time it on his equipment. He arrived at the same conclusion. Later that day, Zimny, as he outlined in an e-mail to a Daily Racing Form reader reprinted in the comments section under David Grening’s April 23 story explaining the time change, e-mailed me to ask if our figure was based on the posted time or a hand timing of the race.

He did that to alert me to the fact that the time was probably going to get changed. I explained that we already had a pretty good idea the original time was incorrect and posted the figure based on Moss’s time.

When the track’s clockers and the Equibase crew returned, they hand-timed the race over and over. Given the fallibility of hand times, they came up with different times, but all within the same range. The decision was made to make the time 1:49.93.

Charles Town officials issued a press release announcing the change and explaining what they think might have happened – an outrider’s pony tripping the timing beam just as the horses were leaving the starting gate. There is a run-up to the pole and the timer obviously started before the horses got to the pole.

Game On Dude was still the winner. He just ran a little faster than originally posted. The posted Beyer Figure of 106 reflected what we were confident was the correct time, so it needed no significant adjustment.

“Trust me, putting out a correction for a $1.5 million race isn’t something a track looks forward to,’’ Zimny wrote to the DRF e-mailer/commenter.

But he knew there was a problem and got it as close to right as possible.

“Putting out a correction for the biggest race in our track’s history isn’t something you ever want to do,’’ Zimny wrote. “We would have much preferred it to be correct from the outset.’’

Certainly, it was somewhat embarrassing. But being embarrassed and staying embarrassed are two different things.

Charles Town knew it had a problem. Its team worked to find the solution. And then explained what happened, why it probably happened, and made a change.

Bottom line, they still had a great race won by a great horse. And they get extra credit for finding the truth and telling the truth.

Guest race-callers at Pimlico

Nine Baltimore-area TV and radio types are getting a chance to call races on Friday at Pimlico, trying to do their best Dave Rodman imitations.

“They are all extremely talented at what they do,” said Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas. “Many even have play-by-play experience, but track announcers are a different breed and to be able to do what they do, day in and day out, is amazing.’’

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Lake back in front at Parx

After a few quiet years by his standards, Scott Lake, who won 528 races in 2006 and has more than 5,300 wins in his career, has gotten hot and gone to the front in the Parx trainer standings with 27 winners through April, one more than Lupe Preciado.