11/11/2011 4:42PM

Letters to the editor Nov. 13, 2011


Allowing Goldikova to keep her placing a clear injustice

Goldikova is truly a great mare, but it was an injustice that she was not disqualified and placed 13th for causing interference in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile.

After breaking from the inside post position, Goldikova spent most of the race bottled up. When Goldikova was still boxed in at the top of the stretch, her jockey, Olivier Peslier, realized time was running out. So Peslier angled Goldikova toward the outside to secure racing room. When Peslier did that, however, Goldikova impeded Courageous Cat, who “steadied off the heels of Goldikova,” according to the official race chart. Bill Mott, the trainer of Courageous Cat, was quoted in the Breeders’ Cup notes as saying that “Courageous Cat got kind of mugged and didn’t really have his chance.” Yes, Courageous Cat finished last in the field of 13. But at the time Courageous Cat was impeded, he was close to Goldikova. Because Goldikova went on to finish third, who is to say Courageous Cat could not have possibly finished fifth or maybe even higher?

Peslier’s decision to move Goldikova toward the outside at the top of the stretch not only impeded Courageous Cat, it began a chain reaction involving several horses. Yet a claim of foul by Patrick Valenzuela, the rider of Courageous Cat, against Goldikova was not allowed.

In my view, leaving Goldikova’s number up was a terrible decision by the stewards. It was an injustice to the connections of Gio Ponti (who should have earned $198,000 for being moved up to third), Mr. Commons (who should have earned $120,000 for being moved up to fourth), and Sidney’s Candy (who should have earned $60,000 for being moved up to fifth). The stewards’ decision not to disqualify Goldikova also was an injustice to all bettors affected by that decision.

Jon White
Monrovia, Calif.

Stewards’ ruling defied belief

For the second straight year, the Breeders’ Cup served as the backdrop for incomprehensible actions on the part of those that are charged with protecting the wagering public, the equine athletes, and everyone who participates in the sport. First, Friday’s card brought us what seemed like quick decisions to scratch horses leading up to the post, and gave the appearance of overreaction to the Life At Ten incident. As if that wasn’t enough, steward John Veitch and his crew saw fit not to disqualify Goldikova, despite the blatant interference she caused to Courageous Cat and the rest of the field at the eighth pole.

What could possibly have been the justification for this ruling? Even the most novice race watcher could ascertain Goldikova severely impeded Patrick Valenzuela’s mount and then subsequently caused a chain reaction of interference with every horse immediately to her outside as Olivier Peslier bulled his way off the rail. In the recaps that followed, I listened in horror as some analysts recanted: “The stewards decided to not disqualify the great mare in her final try, and under the circumstances I’m okay with that.” What? Under what circumstances? So many people were impacted negatively by this ridiculous no-call. More than $4 million was wagered on the Mile in the win, place, and show pools and another $3.2 million was wagered on exotics that included the third- and fourth-place finishers. I am certain that anyone holding a show ticket on Gio Ponti or superfecta ticket with Mr. Commons is perplexed. Oh yeah, and what about the owners who put so much into the game? The difference between third and fourth was $78,000, between fourth and fifth $60,000. I guess in the world of stewarding this is mere chump change.

Finally, I guess the stewards figured there is no reason to shed tears for Gio Ponti’s jockey, Ramon Dominguez, because he probably has enough money. The stewards must have assessed he didn’t need the extra thousands he would have earned. If a group of individuals can make a decision such as this, how can we ever be confident that more sinister outcomes might not be lurking on a day when nobody is watching?

The game has many faults, and certainly many things that require fixing. Placing competent individuals in the stewards’ room should be one of the easier tasks to sort out.

Anthony J. Perrotta Jr.
Red Bank, N.J.

Decision costly for many involved

Most horse racing bettors who witnessed last Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Mile came to the same conclusion: that Goldikova should have been disqualified, with the only question being how far down Churchill Downs stewards would place her. You can imagine my shock and disbelief when they left Goldikova up. This should have been a no-brainier as Goldikova clearly impeded other horses’ chances of winning. The only logical conclusion I can come to is that Churchill Downs stewards believed they were acting as goodwill ambassadors of international racing.

The primary job of any racing steward is to protect the betting public. By disqualifying Goldikova, they would have been doing just that.

The Equibase chart comment line described Courageous Cat as “roughed badly, 3/16.” I guess she was roughed up by himself or some other mystery horse. The chart notes on the race say Courageous Cat was “checked then was bumped . . . causing a chain reaction.” At least the chart writers got it right.

I understand Goldikova was being billed as the darling of the Breeders’ Cup Day and that she was going for a four-peat championship, but that should not have had any influence in deciding whether to disqualify her or not. Apparently, it did. In short, the stewards gave her international connections a pass and allowed Goldikova to keep her third-place finish.

What do the Churchill Downs stewards have to say to bettors who had show money on Gio Ponti, who ran fourth and should have moved up to third with the disqualification? Or to bettors who purchased trifecta and superfecta tickets with Gio Ponti and Mr. Commons in the third and fourth positions? And what do the stewards have to say to the owners, jockeys, and trainers of the other horses who settled for far less purse money when Goldikova was not taken down? This is a game of winning and losing money and getting a fair shake. It is not a game of political correctness or trying not to offend some international horsemen

At the very least, a investigation into this should take place. Last year, bettors suffered unnecessarily from the inaction in the case of Life At Ten, and now a more blatant act of injustice has happened. Once again, Thoroughbred racing’s year-end showcase sustained a black eye, and thousands of bettors were denied a fair accounting of their wagers.

Kirk Hoelk
Lincoln, Neb.