06/12/2011 6:18PM

Hollywood Park: Stewards clear starter of any wrongdoing

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Hollywood Park starter Gary Brinson was exonerated of any wrongdoing by track stewards Sunday regarding a May 15 incident when the mare Dave’s Revenge was ruled a non-starter after she was found to be unprepared when the gate opened.

Dave’s Revenge, who was fourth in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, has raced in claiming races for the last year and has developed a habit of being fractious in the gate or breaking slowly.

After a 45-minute hearing Sunday, the stewards dismissed complaints against Brinson filed by the California Horse Racing Board that alleged Brinson violated rules pertaining to the start of a race and the duties of the starter.

Before the first race May 15, Dave’s Revenge became upset in the gate and was backed out of the stalls. Brinson moved from his customary position in front of the gate to behind the gate to assist loading Dave’s Revenge himself, and left the duties of actually starting the race to his chief assistant, Keil Travis.

After the other four runners were in the gate, Dave’s Revenge was loaded last, with Brinson advising Travis to start the race as soon as possible to prevent the mare from becoming upset a second time. Travis started the race too soon, before an assistant starter who accompanied Dave’s Revenge into her stall could climb onto an adjacent ledge. The assistant starter had his back turned to the front of the gate when the stall door opened. Dave’s Revenge leapt in the air at the start and unseated jockey Rafael Bejarano, who was not injured in the incident.

After a brief inquiry, stewards Scott Chaney, Kim Sawyer, and Tom Ward ruled that Dave’s Revenge was a non-starter in that race.

The same board of stewards heard the case Sunday, which included an appearance by track president Jack Liebau, who challenged racing board senior investigator Frank Amieva on the merits of the board’s allegations.

The stewards had a brief private meeting before announcing the dismissal of the case.

Before their private conversation, Ward disputed the three rules that the racing board cited in its complaint. He said Brinson did not act “willfully or negligently cause” a horse to fail to start, and that Brinson was not in violation of a rule that states “except in cases of emergency, every horse shall be started from an approved starting gate by the starter.”

Regarding the last rule, Ward said that Dave’s Revenge’s behavior caused an emergency.

“This is a bad gate horse, and this was an emergency situation,” Ward said.

Dave’s Revenge, trained by Bob Hess Jr., has won 3 of 21 starts and $224,098 in her four-year career.