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Rough start to Delaware Handicap stirs up much debate
STANTON, Del. - Despite winning the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap with I'm a Chatterbox the previous afternoon, Sunday morning was a typical work day for trainer Larry Jones. By 9 a.m. he had already been to the track on nine horses, and he still had three more to go.
But Sunday was not completely normal. Although I'm a Chatterbox had run a strong race to win the Del Cap at 3-5, it was not without controversy. She had bobbled at the start of the 1 1/4-mile race and then ducked inward, causing a chain-reaction bumping incident with the three horses inside of her in the six-horse field.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., the rider of runner-up Paid Up Subscriber, lodged a claim of foul against I'm a Chatterbox but the stewards, after reviewing the somewhat startling beginning of the race, ruled that the order of finish would stand. The incident sparked wide-ranging debate.
Fortunately, I'm a Chatterbox (No. 4); Milaya (No. 3), trained by Michael Dilger; Money'soncharlotte (No. 2), trained by Kelly Breen, and Paid Up Subscriber (No. 1), trained by Al Stall Jr.; all seem to have come out of the race none the worse for wear.
Both Stall and Dilger said Sunday they were shocked the inquiry sign was not lit after the race and that if Santana hadn't claimed foul the race would have been made official.
"Ricardo didn't really know what happened at the start," Stall explained. "He thought maybe the 2 or the 3 had come in on him. He didn't realize the winner was responsible. I told him to lodge the objection."
At the start of the race, I'm a Chatterbox stumbled and then ducked inward under jockey Florent Geroux, bumping Milaya into Money'soncharlotte. Paid Up Subscriber, the second betting choice in the field at 9-5, also was bumped hard.
"Her hindquarters were knocked out from under her as a result of the domino effect," Stall said.
Geroux straightened out I'm a Chatterbox and she was briefly in last position. She then went by horses in the long run to the first turn and took up a stalking position off front-running Mei Ling. I'm a Chatterbox took the lead on the far turn, drew clear, and then held Paid Up Subscriber safe to win by 2 1/4 lengths.
After being bumped off stride at the start, Paid Up Subscriber had a clean trip and was second best, finishing 4 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place Penwith. Milaya and Money'soncharlotte were well beaten, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.
Paid Up Subscriber is owned by Klaravich Stable and William Lawrence. In addition to the Del Cap's $750,000 purse, a victory can increase a filly's value immensely. Stall said Sunday morning he had still not spoken to all his owners and was not sure if they would appeal the stewards' decision.
The Delaware stewards relayed a statement regarding their ruling to the media Saturday evening through john Wayne, executive director of the Delaware Racing Commission.
"They said the 4 horse [I'm a Chatterbox] came in, had bumps with the 3 [Milaya] and 2 [Money'soncharlotte], which in turn bumped the No. 1 [Paid Up Subscriber]. After the bump, the No. 4 lost ground as much as anyone else and was four lengths behind the 1 after the bump," Wayne said. "They thought that the bump and the fact that the 4 horse was four lengths behind the 1, it didn't cost the 1 horse a placing. And the 1 horse never lost stride for the rest of the race."
Jones said he thought the stewards made the right call by leaving the order of finish unchanged.
"I know it was a controversial start," Jones said. "Had they taken her down, I would have understood. But I think the stewards made the right decision. I feel I had the best horse. After Geroux straightened her, we were last. We still had to outrun them all."
Stall said after the race he disagreed with the stewards' call. On Sunday he had softened his position dlightly.
"The starting gate is always a tough place to have things happen," Stall said. "The stewards are always more forgiving when things happen there. But it was a six-horse field and the 4 came over into the 1, 2, and the 3. That's half the field. It's simple math."
Money'soncharlotte was 56-1 in the race. Milaya was 67-1.
"Our plan was to be in front for as far as we can go," Breen said of Money'soncharlotte. "I was compromised at the gate and was last early. We were annihilated. I don't know that I got a fair chance."
Dilger and Breen both said they were hoping to finish in the top three and earn a Grade 1 placing.
"I was a longshot in the race but then again, when the gates open it should be irrelevant what the odds are," Dilger said. "I am wondering if I didn't get a fair shake. I watched the race with Al [Stall} and we couldn't believe the inquiry sign was not posted."
Jones believes he knows why I'm a Chatterbox ducked inward so sharply after she stumbled. A dirt route of 1 1/4 miles is rarely run at Delaware and starts out of a small chute at the top of the stretch. At the end of the chute, behind where the gate is set, is an on-gap to the track that is used during training hours.
"That's where we come onto the track with I'm a Chatterbox in the morning," Jones said. "Every time we do, we make a left out of that chute and backtrack before we do anything with her. So when the ground broke out from under her, I think she was just anticipating to go that way, to her left."
I'm a Chatterbox's indiscretion at the start takes a little shine off her victory but she still ran an impressive race. She was timed in 2:02.64 and earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 98.
Jones said he would consider the Grade 1, $750,000 Personal Ensign, a 1 1/8-mile race at Saratoga on Aug. 27, as a possible next start for I'm a Chatterbox.
I'm a Chatterbox finished first in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga last summer but was disqualified and placed second in a controversial decision for coming outward and brushing with Curalina in deep stretch.
"I told the owners last night, that this equals out for Saratoga," Jones said. "That was a close call and we were taken down. This was a close call and we were left up."
I'm a Chatterbox, a 4-year-old daughter of Munnings owned by Fletcher and Carolyn Gray of Missouri, is now 7 for 14 in her career with earnings of more than $1.8 million. Her other major win came in the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx Racing last September.
Totally unexcusable that the stewards allowed the 4 horse to get her picture taken in the winners circle. I'm a big fan of I'm a Chatterbox, but, that just isn't right to allow an entry to take out 3 other horses and then determine that no foul was committed. You might as well implement the same rules and regulations that they have in dog racing. Everything goes!
Obviously, the horses weren't the only ones wearing blinders. Chatterbox took out 60% of the field, but no one lost stride? Very bad call.
Those stewards are a total joke!!!!
I knew they were going to cite the winner's travails after causing the event, like that evens the score - it's totally irrelevant. Subscriber gotliterally knocked off of all 4 hoofs, she got knocked sideways hard. You're telling me that in a mile and a quarter race having the wind completely knocked out of her didn't impact her race? If I had to bet these two again I would take Subscriber, I thought she was dead game after obviously being found egregiously. There's no question she ha the wind knocked out of her. All you have to do is look at it.
Know whats even worse? The fact that neither an on-track reporter at Delaware Park tried to interview the stewards, or a "columnist" at DRF decided to tackle an obviously flammable issue. If someone did and I missed it, I apologize.
This was clearly an inquiry that should have been upheld. I know you're allowed one or two steps out of the gate to adjust your position but I counted at least eight steps out of the gate that I'm a Chatterbox interferred with the 1, 2, and 3 horses. G1 or not this was a horrible error by the steward and should be investigated by Delaware racing officials.
Incredible that the stewards did not even post the inquiry sign. If it was so obvious to them there was no foul, why did they need several minutes to rule on the objection?
Pathetic ! Who would ever run in Delaware again or bet on it. They have a Grade 1 worth $750,000 and can only get 6 entered this year and a low handle.
After this fiasco i hope no one show's up for the race next year . Horses and their connections and the bettors should all stay away from Delaware. Obviously this won't happen but wish it would.
This was robbery and Im a Chatterbox should have been placed behind the 2 or 3 whoever finished worse. Did the 2 and 3 have a chance on paper ? No . But they were crushed as well as the 1 and who knows where they would have finished .There was also a few bridge jumpers on Im Chatterbox as well with about $80k to show .
What an inquiry is and when a horse will come down is just a guess anymore. No one has any clue the stewards at many tracks and it is terrible.
Fire the Stewards . Hopefully one of the connections does an appeal and some of it will be righted purse wise. Betting wise the bettors were screwed who bet against Im a Chatter and wronged again by the 3 blind mice.
Good luck to all
Real problem facing this sport! Why not let fans see idiots who are making calls, like all other sports.
Either there are rules or not. If not, just call it rodeo! There needs to be a national oversight in the sport, to insure that all of the stewards apply the same rules, all of the time. Btw, in my opinion, the rules should be applied from the start of the race, to the finish line.