12/01/2006 12:00AM

Indy Derby protest dropped

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The connections of Star Dabbler have withdrawn their protest of the result of the Grade 2, $513,200 Indiana Derby, in which they claimed their horse defeated Cielo Gold rather than finish in a dead heat, as was ruled by the Hoosier Park stewards.

Karen Murphy, the attorney representing Star Dabbler's owner, Barry Schwartz, said the appeal of the Oct. 9 race was dropped on Nov. 28 after an FBI forensic expert that she hired viewed the original image of the photo finish and deduced the two horses appeared to hit the finish line at the same time.

"The video image that started this whole thing projected the inside horse won the race,'' Murphy said, referring to Star Dabbler. "The only way we could go beyond that is to get the original digital image. He was able to determine - even though the image was of very poor resolution - that it appeared the two horses approached the same space at the same time. He could not rule out nor could he rule in any alteration of that image.''

Murphy criticized officials from Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Hoosier Park, for their role in delaying this process. Murphy said it took nearly two months to get the original image, because Churchill Downs wouldn't allow its release. Murphy said Hoosier Park is running a major race with "equipment that's inferior, antiquated or both.''