05/18/2016 4:14PM

Maiden-race victory by three-time winner raises questions


A horse who won a maiden race in New York on Sunday despite having won three non-sanctioned races in China last year has raised questions in some quarters about the reporting of horses’ performances in foreign jurisdictions when they are imported to the U.S.

The horse, a 4-year-old New Zealand-bred colt named Mongolian Prince, won the sixth race at Belmont Park at odds of 16-1 by a head. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he had previously started in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park in Florida on March 18, finishing fifth at odds of 4-1. Those are the only starts the horse has made in the U.S.

However, according to information contained in an article when he was imported to the U.S. by the colt’s owner, Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry Group, the horse raced five times in China as a 3-year-old, winning three times and finishing second twice. Those races were not conducted under rules governing sanctioned races, so the races did not count officially, and the horse was considered a maiden under international rules.

The lack of information in his past-performance data about the Chinese races has generated discussion about whether all racing experience should be noted in published horse records. It’s a gray area: While it’s obvious that a race at Longchamp in Paris on a Saturday should count, what about a race at a bush track in Louisiana with no accredited stewards, placing judges, or an official timer? What about a simulated race at a private farm in central Kentucky among an owners’ eight 2-year-olds who are getting ready to be shipped to a track?

Internationally sanctioned races are those that are conducted under the auspices of an organization that has agreed to the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing, and Wagering of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, an umbrella group for stud books and regulatory authorities. The International Agreement contains provisions ensuring that horses competing in sanctioned races are registered Thoroughbreds and that the rules of the race conform to minimum standards of integrity, according to the IFHA.

While China does not have an organization that has agreed to all aspects of the pact, one regulatory authority in the country, the China Stud Book, has “signed some articles” of the agreement, according to the IFHA, and there have been races run in the country that were considered sanctioned races in the past – most notably several stakes races run in 2013 and 2014 – because they were run under the rules of French racing in a special arrangement. The races won by Mongolian Prince were run at racecourses governed by the Chinese Equestrian Association, another regulatory authority that has not signed any articles of the International Agreement.

Bob Curran, the vice president of communications for The Jockey Club, said that the Asian Racing Federation, a regional association of Asian racing countries that does not include China as a member, has told the Jockey Club that “350 to 500” races are currently conducted in mainland China, to the best of its records. However, because China has not signed on to a provision of the International Agreement regarding the export of race records, the Jockey Club did not receive any race records regarding Mongolian Prince when he was imported to the U.S. from China.

In a different case, race records did accompany the importation documentation of an Irish-bred horse, Beat of The Drum, when she was imported to the U.S. in 2015 after running twice in China in late 2014. In that case, the Chinese races were run under the special arrangement with the IFHA, under the French rules. Beat of The Drum had run five races in England before running in the two Chinese races.

Making the matter more frustrating to some bettors, Mongolian Prince was by some accounts a very good horse in China, even if it’s unclear what quality of horses he was competing against, or even if he was competing against registered Thoroughbreds. His owners said he won one race by 21 lengths.

Jockey Club officials acknowledge that the situation is complex and can often be confusing, and they said they would attempt to address the lack of uniformity in meetings down the road.

“The Jockey Club will be conferring with our international colleagues to discuss this situation further,” Curran said.