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Trainer disputes photo finish
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - To the naked eye, it appeared Gooch's Dream won the featured seventh race on the turf Thursday at Hollywood Park. But the photo-finish camera showed Kbello the narrow winner, a result that lit up the phone lines at the track, caused Mike Machowsky, the trainer of Gooch's Dream, to file a formal complaint Friday, and left both the stewards and the track's photo-finish operator painstakingly explaining that the result was, indeed, correct.
The loss by Gooch's Dream capped an exasperating day for Machowsky, whose 2-year-old Kelly Leak lost by a nose in the fifth race just one hour earlier.
"And then it took me an hour and 45 minutes to get home after that," Machowsky said Friday.
Machowsky said he was filing the protest because the lone photo of the finish produced for the public - and disseminated on websites, including Hollywood Park's - was unusual in that it showed Kbello's nose past the wire, with Gooch's Dream's nose on the wire.
"I'm convinced he didn't get beat," Machowsky said. "Why was one nose through the line? I've never seen anything like it. Every other photo finish, the first horse is on the line. Watching the race, I thought we were a slam-dunk winner."
Hollywood Park's stewards - Albert Christiansen, Kim Sawyer, and Randy Winick - and Larry Cude, who operates the photo-finish equipment at Hollywood Park for the vendor Plusmic USA, on Friday said that the publicly shown image was supported by other photos, including a mirror image, whose resolution was not as sharp.
"The first photo we saw did not show definition between the two horses," Christiansen said.
"It was hard to tell where the other nose was," Winick added.
"But when you look at the other photo, you could see who had won. It certainly wasn't a dead heat," Christiansen said.
"You can see that one horse has a gray nose," he added, referring to Kbello.
Machowsky, at his Santa Anita barn on Friday, confirmed that Gooch's Dream did not have any white on his nose.
"The placing judges called it 6-2," Sawyer said, referring to Kbello first, Gooch's Dream second, "so we had them bring the print down. When we saw it, it was a no-brainer."
Much of the confusion, the stewards and Cude theorized, is borne of the way in which the photos are produced.
According to Cude, the images are recorded digitally, through a slit in the photo-finish camera, which is placed high atop the grandstand.
"It's electronically recorded, pixel by pixel, whenever anything passes through the slit," Cude said.
In effect, an image is recorded of each horse as it passes the finish line, giving an exact measurement of when each horse reached the finish. For instance, Kbello's nose would have to hit the wire first for his nose to be recorded first.
There is no actual line stretching across the track at the finish. Instead, the finish line is electronically generated on a computer screen and added to the photo. All this is done by means of a survey, and the equipment is checked before the first race each day to make sure it is aligned properly, Cude said.
There are two cameras for both the turf course and the main track, acting as redundancy in case one fails, Cude said. According to Cude, both cameras produced identical images of the seventh race, showing Kbello the winner.
On Friday afternoon, Sawyer told Cude to add to Hollywood Park's website the photo-finish image that has the line touching Kbello's nose - even though the definition between the two horses is not as crisp - in hopes of satisfying a questioning public.
No DQ, but Talamo gets suspension
In addition to the controversy surrounding the photo finish in Thursday's seventh race, there was an inquiry into that race involving Kbello, who drifted out in the stretch under jockey Joe Talamo.
The stewards made no change, ruling that the horse who was interfered with, third-place finisher Proud Heritage, was not denied a better placing. But Talamo on Friday was suspended by the stewards for three days, beginning next Friday, for careless riding.
"That was the easy part," Christiansen said. "It was the photo that took so long."
Arnold hoping to score with Kopitar
Rusty Arnold had a hip check thrown his way this week but is still hopeful of getting the unbeaten Kopitar from Kentucky to Hollywood Park for the Grade 1, $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 20.
"I had a plane lined up for him on the 17th, which suited him great, but they canceled it, and right now his last chance to fly out there is on the 8th," Arnold said Friday. "So, we're iffy. It's put a hitch in our plan. I would like to go later. I'm looking for alternatives to get him out there. I had it all set, and things went a little sideways on us.
"I think he might be a really nice horse. On synthetic and turf, he's shown he's a really nice horse."
If he can't make proper arrangements for the CashCall Futurity, Arnold said he would send Kopitar to Calder for the Tropical Park Derby.
Kopitar, who has won both of his starts, is owned by Californian Richard Masson, who races as Green Lantern Stable. The horse is named for Los Angeles Kings hockey star Anze Kopitar.
"He said if I come out there, I can meet the real Kopitar," Arnold said.
DeGregory picks up Nakatani
Veteran agent Vince DeGregory, stunned a few weeks ago when he was fired by Joel Rosario, quickly righted himself and will represent Corey Nakatani, beginning immediately.
Nakatani, who has been out for two months with a fractured collarbone, will return toward the end of the Hollywood Park meet on Dec. 21, DeGregory said Friday.
"He'll ride the last few days of Hollywood Park and then be ready for Santa Anita," DeGregory said. "That's the plan. He's been getting on horses in the morning the last few days."
DeGregory, who is 76 but looks and acts much younger, said he had a frank talk with Nakatani before agreeing to represent him.
"I told him he's a great rider, but his mouth gets in front of his talent," DeGregory said. "He's got all the talent in the world. He just needs to have no attitude, be humble. He can't go and play in golf tournaments for two weeks. If he shows people he's sincere, the talent will shine again."
DeGregory has represented such Hall of Fame riders as Angel Cordero Jr., Chris McCarron, and Laffit Pincay Jr. over the years.
"The old man is rejuvenated," he said.
Elysium Fields now with Drysdale
Elysium Fields, who finished second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes earlier this year for trainer Barclay Tagg, has been sent west by owner Robert Evans and is now with trainer Neil Drysdale. Idle since the spring, Elysium Fields, 3, had been training most recently at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland with Bruce Jackson.
"He came in in good condition," Drysdale said. "He's almost ready to breeze. He's a very nice horse. We're excited to have him. He was sent west by Mr. Evans to take advantage of the synthetic tracks."
* Jockey Tyler Baze was taken to a local hospital after his mount, Pink Diamond, crashed through the inner rail at the end of Friday's fourth race, a six-furlong grass race for maiden fillies and mares. Baze was moving his legs after the accident, but was immobilized by paramedics and placed on a stretcher before being transported to the hospital. Pink Diamond, who finished second, did not appear to suffer serious injuries.