08/30/2017 3:00PM

Paolucci's rabbit barred from Woodward Stakes

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Debra A. Roma
Grade 2 Brooklyn winner War Story will not have the help of a rabbit in the Grade 1 Woodward.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The New York stewards denied owner Ron Paolucci’s entry of May B for Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga because they did not feel he was in the race to win.

Paolucci was planning to have May B serve as a pacemaker, or rabbit, to help keep Gun Runner company on the front end and assist Paolucci’s other starter, War Story. Paolucci called the stewards to notify them of what he was doing, believing that was the proper thing to do.

But the stewards, citing state rule 4025.2, used their discretion to deny the entry. Under that rule, “the nominations or entries of any person . . . may be canceled or revoked without notice by the racing association or in the discretion of the commission or of the stewards.”

“We feel all horses that enter should be able to win the race,” steward Stephen Lewandowski said.

Asked if that meant horses who are entered and declared as rabbits would not be permitted in New York races in the future, Lewandowski said “We take everything on a case-by-case basis.”

A field of five was entered in the Woodward, led by Grade 1 Whitney winner Gun Runner, who drew post 2. Neolithic (post 1), Rally Cry (post 3), War Story (post 4), and Discreet Lover (post 5) round out the field.

The stewards did have the discretion to couple May B and War Story as one betting interest but opted not to.

“The stewards have the discretion to deny,” Lewandowski said.

May B, a 7-year-old gelding, was purchased by Paolucci from California owner and trainer Mark Glatt following a second-place finish in a $35,000 claimer July 28 at Del Mar. Prior to that, he won a starter allowance at Los Alamitos by 9 1/4 lengths. His three starts prior to that were in Quarter Horse races.

Paolucci, who entered May B in an optional-claiming sprint on Saturday’s Saratoga card, was frustrated by the decision. Paolucci, who paid $750 to nominate May B to the Woodward, said the gelding is “perfectly sound, perfectly fit. They will not give me a reason other than stewards’ discretion. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Paolucci had entered Cautious Giant in the Whitney as a rabbit for War Story. The stewards, after speaking with Paolucci then, were satisfied that Cautious Giant was in the race to win, accepted the entry, and did not couple him with War Story. Cautious Giant set the pace for about 3 1/2 furlongs in the Whitney.

Paolucci said that had he known he couldn’t run May B in the Woodward, he could have run a different horse in the race, Mo Dont No, who won a 1 1/4-mile stakes race at Thistledown last weekend.

“I’m not trying to make a mockery of the race,” Paolucci said. “I love the sport. I don’t want this to be the headline for the race.”