06/26/2017 10:16AM

Purse on hold after suspended owner runs winning horse

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ARCADIA, Calif. – The $71,510 purse of an optional claimer at Santa Anita on Saturday has been placed on hold and eventually may be redistributed because the winning owner was ineligible to run horses after being suspended last Friday.

Nick Cafarchia, 78, failed to appear at a hearing regarding financial responsibilities, track stewards said Sunday. The matter is being investigated by the California Horse Racing Board, stewards said.

Cafarchia was suspended last Friday by track stewards, but the racing board staff and stewards failed to withdraw Cafarchia’s horse, My Italian Babbo – from Saturday’s eighth race after the suspension was announced.

My Italian Babbo ($27.40) won the one-mile race by a nose over Record Highs.

Stewards said they were unaware that Cafarchia had a runner on Saturday until minutes after the race. According to steward Kim Sawyer, the racing board staff reviews the status of owners, trainers, and jockeys when entries are taken. Entries for Saturday’s races were taken last Wednesday, June 21, when Cafarchia was in good standing.

“It was the perfect storm,” Sawyer said of the oversight.

“We’ve put a hold on the purse.”

Cafarchia appeared at a hearing before stewards Sawyer, Grant Baker, and Luis Jauregui on Sunday morning and was fully reinstated. Stewards said he settled a financial complaint filed by a local horse farm.

Cafarchia had two runners Sunday. Neither won. Entries for Sunday’s program were taken last Thursday, when Cafarchia was also in good standing.

The matter could be the subject of a complaint and a hearing, a process that could take several months, stewards said. Parimutuel payoffs will not be affected.

My Italian Babbo earned $43,680 for the win. If a ruling is issued stating that the horse was ineligible to race because of Cafarchia’s suspension, the purse will be redistributed to the second- through sixth-place finishers: Record Highs, Crown the Kitten, Unapologetic, Street Moxie, and Rye Patch.

Cafarchia was not available for comment Sunday.

Richard Baltas, who trains My Italian Babbo, said Cafarchia was unaware that he had been summoned to a hearing before the stewards last Friday. Baltas reacted angrily Sunday, saying that Cafarchia was not at fault.

“Nick told me he wasn’t notified of the hearing,” he said. “The guy has never had a financial issue, and he’s been in the business for 25 years.

“I was told this slipped through the cracks.

“I got a call after the race was over. I’m not happy about it. The horse earned the money, and so did the jockey and the trainer.”

My Italian Babbo has won three times for Cafarchia this year. In recent years, Cafarchia has won stakes with Italian Rules, My Summer Slew, Rare Charmer, and Road to Slew. Road to Slew won the Grade 2 Frank Kilroe Mile in 2002.

Unique Bella taking it slowly

Unique Bella, sidelined in March with a shin injury after winning three stakes for 3-year-old fillies earlier in the year, was tack-walked over the weekend and will not be rushed into racetrack exercise, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Sunday.

“We’re taking it conservative and slow,” Hollendorfer said. “We should have her ready to run in the last quarter of the year.”

Owned by Don Alberto Stable, Unique Bella was considered the leading 3-year-old filly in the nation when she was taken out of training in late March. Unique Bella has won 4 of 5 starts and earned $342,400.

She won the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes in January, the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes in February, and the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes in her most recent start March 4.