03/01/2015 10:34PM

Giwner: One strange disqualification

Derick Giwner
Handle was up last weekend at Yonkers Raceway, but an on-track DQ stole some of the spotlight.

Receiving calls or emails about judges’ decisions is commonplace in my line of work. Nine times out of ten I watch the race and it is plain to see the judges' point of view and I turn the page. But on Saturday night (2/28) when Kiwi Ideal N was disqualified and placed last, I was certainly left shaking my head.

The race unfolded with Duel In The Sun assuming the early lead over Rockin Wizard, who ever so briefly came off the cones to inspire the leader to go faster. Approaching the quarter Kiwi Ideal N was sent to the rim by driver Eric Goodell trying to brush to the front. In the midst of pacing a 29 3/5 second quarter (about normal for the second quarter at Yonkers), Goodell made the front off the far turn as driver Mark MacDonald took a hold of his horse to yield for the pocket.

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MacDonald’s horse was clearly under a tight hold and perhaps annoyed that he wasn’t on the lead, a position he held in three of his last four starts including last week when he paced a 1:53 3/5 victorious mile on the engine. Meanwhile, Rockin Wizard was clearly having no part of sitting the three-hole despite driver Brian Sears doing everything he could to keep him along the cones. Finally at the last minute Sears pulled just after the horse behind him had begun the outer flow.

Ultimately Kiwi Ideal N was disqualified for slowing down the pace and causing confusion to trailing horses, including Sears and those that were forced wide when he pulled. Kiwi Ideal N was taken down despite pacing the same or faster in the second quarter as four other horses on the card, none of which were dq’d.

It was a tough pill to swallow, even for someone like me who didn’t have a wager on the race. The problem is that the race looked just like 50% of the races contested at Yonkers with one small exception, horses at the back of the pack were impeded. Who was at fault? That is the 64,000 question.

I’d accept the argument that perhaps Goodell could have gone faster once getting the lead, but he certainly made no obvious moves to slow the pace dramatically. The first half of the second quarter seemed to be contested at a similar speed as the second half by the naked eye. I could also see someone blaming MacDonald for taking a hold of his horse and allowing Goodell to make the front easily. Maybe it was Sears’ fault for not brushing to the lead prior to the quarter or pulling well before the incident took place. As one driver told me, "There was a lot of blame to go around."

Trainer Darran Cassar was livid when reached by phone. “I’m going to appeal it,” he said. “I know I probably won’t win, but it is a matter of principle.”

There are two rules in New York (that I found) regarding this type of infraction:

4117.4 section (e) Taking back quickly in front of a horse or a field of horses so as to cause confusion or interference among the trailing horses.

(m) Causing any horse or a field of horses to excessively slow down.

Did we really witness either of the above infractions? And if we did, could you say for sure who was at fault?

The entire incident takes me back to the head-scratching disqualification of Odds On Equuleus in 2012 at the Red Mile. Driver John Campbell was disqualified for a very similar “infraction”. But that was a stakes race and received much more attention.

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Who are the judges trying to protect in cases like the above? The betting public? The horse that was placed first wasn’t even interfered with from my viewpoint. I see the point that there was interference and someone is at fault, but this was hardly a cut and dry case. For me this was a case where maybe a few drivers should have been fined and the result left alone. You send a message, yet at the same time you don’t penalize those who wagered on the clear best horse.

I’ve said it once, but clearly it needs to be said again, you can’t DQ a horse unless the evidence of wrongdoing is unquestionable!

Feel free to watch the replay here and judge for yourself. Click on February 28, race 10: http://yonkersraceway.com/livevideo/

In better news . . .

Handle at Yonkers Raceway was way up during the weekend. The track handled $818,202 on Friday and $833,427 on Saturday. According to sources at the track, the results may have been due to avoiding off-time conflicts with other tracks. If so, whether intentional or not, keep it up. It works!

Finally . . .

I just want to thank everyone at Harness Horsemen International for honoring me with the Clyde Hirt Media Award. When I look at the list of directors and see mostly people I don’t deal with on a daily basis, the award means even more. To receive an award named after a Hall of Famer and following in the footsteps of previous award recipients like Hall of Famer Sam McKee and this year’s USHWAN of the Year Gordon Waterstone shows that I must be doing something right.


Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
harness racing is akin to professional wrestling in the us. complete joke,main reason why sport is in decline. only day worth watching is hambo day otherwise slots give you a better chance
Jeff Mcintosh More than 1 year ago
Joel Weiner More than 1 year ago
Just another note. It seems that the powers to be at Yonkers Raceway may have passed down an edict prohibiting second quarter slow-downs; the races from the past few cards show quicker second quarter times. The :31 second quarter has disappeared over the last few nights. If there was a change in policy at this track, it would have been nice if the bettors or the harness writers were made aware of this new phase. Is there a new policy? If there is, what I'd it? I don't know but I will be watching, (for a while anyway). Keeping those who follow this sport informed would have been a better way to handle this.
Joel Weiner More than 1 year ago
Just watched the replay Derick and I didn't see anything different from what goes on in any other race there. I thought Goodell made a very good aggressive move to the front on the backstretch which more drivers should be making and the slowdown in the second quarter was not unusual as compared with any of the other races. No one pulled up when he took the lead. The traffic jam on the outside was the shock of having so many drivers pull horses at the same time; usually they snooze until later in the race.I have seen races there where the first Q is :27:4 and they go to the half in :59. In race 11 that night Lorenzo Dream went :28:1 & 58:2 In the 7th, Awsome Valley went :28:2 & 58:4, no problem. Race 3 on Friday, 27:4 & 58:3. Race 4, 28:1 & 59:3!!!! No dq here. I didn't bet the race in question so I have no dog in the fight but this is all an arbitrary decision by judges who have let racing go to hell there. Actually whoever is running that track should be on the unemployment line because of the horrible racing with all of that casino money. Someone has to set some policy there so everyone knows what will and what will not be tolerated. I mean top flight drivers, pretty good horses & trainers, very good purses and the most boring races in the country; quite the combination.
spanky More than 1 year ago
Protecting the public is the last thing on the minds of Yonkers Raceway judges.
Stu Brooks More than 1 year ago
Tough to ever wager on that sewer Yonkers after this mess
Tony Zag More than 1 year ago
When its a Jock, Trainer, Owner, Driver, the fingers automatically get pointed ! What are Officials, Stewards, are they NOT people as well? Well, lets get an investigation going on this? Let's blow this incident up so big that the Stewards for the Kentucky Derby will have Pinkerton Men live with each Steward a week before Derby! Yea, what's good for the goose..............."
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
Could have went faster? Let me help you find your sheepskin.
BornFunny More than 1 year ago
Congrats Derick! Well deserved!
Derick More than 1 year ago