10/01/2003 11:00PM

Stewards rule favorite Overact is eligible

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Overact figures to be even money to win Saturday's $50,000 Fantasy Stakes at Hastings, but the day after nominations closed on Sept. 24, she was about 10-1 to run in the race.

Nominations closed on that Wednesday, and as usual the Hastings Racing Office published the nominations Thursday. David Forster, the trainer of Overact, was surprised to see that Overact wasn't on the list of nominations.

"I'm absolutely positive that I nominated her," he said. "I've been pointing her to this race since the Lassie and there's no way I would forget to nominate her."

Nicola Wright rides Overact and her agent Wayne Snow, concurs with Forster.

"I called Dave up to ask him if he wanted me to nominate her for him, and he told me that he had already done it," he said. "There's not much doubt in my mind that he nominated her."

When first asked about the nomination, staff in the Hastings racing office couldn't specifically remember accepting the nomination of Overact, but they had taken nominations from Forster for other races. Their opinion at the time was that since they didn't have the nomination in their hands, that Overact shouldn't be allowed to run.

Forster appealed to the stewards, and after undertaking a thorough investigation they came to a different conclusion.

"We found that there was a strong possibility that he did nominate the horse," said senior steward, Keith Smith. "When we were going through all of the nominations we discovered that on some of the forms there was a time stamp. It turns out that one of the racing office employees always stamps a nomination-form when they receive one. They also made a sworn statement that they remembered receiving a nomination from Dave Forster. Since we couldn't find any nomination by Forster with a time stamp, there's a very good chance that he did nominate the horse and that the nomination was misplaced."

The stewards made their decision last Friday and, of course, some of the owners with horses in the race appealed to Sam Hawkins, the director of racing for the gaming policy and enforcement branch, racing division. Hawkins ruled that "the stewards made their decision fairly and without bias basing that decision on the balance of probabilities. There will be no change in the stewards' decision."

Hawkins also said he discussed the matter with Hastings director of racing Debbie Peebles, and that she plans to implement some changes regarding taking nominations in the future in order to avoid similar problems.

Not surprisingly, some of the connections with horses in the race were unhappy with the stewards decision.

Leading trainer Dino Condilenios expressed his displeasure.

"I like Dave and certainly don't have anything against him," he said, "But if he missed the nomination she shouldn't get to run. Even if he did nominate, and they lost it, what would happen if they lost a set of registration papers, they certainly wouldn't let the horse run without papers. I just don't like them changing rules at the last minute. They did a similar thing a couple of years ago when they let 11 horses run in the Sadie Diamond Futurity when previously only 10 were allowed to start.

If history repeats, you might want to bet on Darlin Maggie, who is trained by Condilenios. He won the race he was referring to from the post 11 with Beautiful Stranger.

While it was hard to find many in agreement with the stewards decision, Mel Snow, president of the Horsemen's Benovelent Protective Association, supported their findings.

"It certainly appears that the slip was put in," he said. "The stewards did a very thorough investigation, and I think they made the right call."

Politics aside, Overact has been pointed to the race by Forster, and he said he thinks she's ready for a good effort.

"She's been training well enough, and I think she'll handle the extra distance," he said. "You never really know until you try and stretch them out but she's out of Capilano, and she won the Washington Oaks at a mile and an eighth."