09/19/2012 12:31PM

Woodbine: Natalma placing subject of appeal

Michael Burns
The ride aboard Spring Venture by Patrick Husbands in the Natalma is being challenged by the trainer of the third-place finisher.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Controversy has erupted in the wake of last Saturday’s Natalma Stakes here at Woodbine, which was won by Spring Venture.

The Grade 2 Natalma, for 2-year-old fillies at one mile on the turf, is a Win and You’re In race for the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Carolyn Costigan, trainer of third-place finisher Nancy O, has lodged an appeal, alleging interference at the start by the winner.

And the Ontario Racing Commission, recognizing the importance of expediting the matter with the Juvenile Fillies Turf going on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, will conduct a hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 2, beginning at 10 a.m.

Mark Casse trains both Spring Venture, who is owned by Gary Barber and Stoneway Farm and was ridden by Patrick Husbands, and Spring in the Air, who finished second in the Natalma for owner John Oxley.

Nancy O, under regular rider David Moran, was beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Spring Venture and a neck by Spring in the Air. Costigan trains Nancy O for her father, Bob Costigan, and Borders Racing Stable.

And the protagonists – or in this case, antagonists – are not shy about stating their positions before the actual hearing.

“I think the start of the race was highly questionable,” said Costigan. “I think that anybody who watched the head-on cannot but agree with the fact that Patrick Husbands makes no attempt whatsoever to keep his horse running in a straight and orderly fashion. He moves directly into the six path – which is the one occupied by my horse, and rightly so – and he collides with her quite forcefully. Watching the head-on you can see she loses a considerable amount of ground and goes to last place after breaking with the group.

“I’m highly concerned about the fact that there was no inquiry, and that’s what I’m appealing.”

Moran, who did not lodge a claim of foul on his own behalf, said he would rather not comment before the hearing.

If the Nancy O appeal is allowed, Spring in the Air would be moved up to first in the Natalma, Nancy O would be second, and Spring Venture third.

Casse views the start of the Natalma in a different light than Costigan.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Casse. “I think it’s frivolous. I don’t understand it – it makes no sense to me. The best they can hope for is to get second place, which is only $25,000 more in purse money.

“And here I have one owner, Stoneway, who won the biggest race of their career and they can’t even enjoy it. There was no claim of foul, and no inquiry, and they didn’t even appeal until the next day. I think it’s a disgrace.”

The racing commission ruling announcing the appeal states that:

“After watching the race live and reviewing the video following the running of the race it is the opinion of the Board of Stewards that the incidental contact at the start did not warrant a placing.”

Nancy O headed to Belmont

Nancy O, who remains a maiden after three starts but came into the Natalma off a good second-place finish behind the colt Are You Kidding Me in the seven-furlong turf allowance prep for the Summer Stakes, should be making her next appearance at Belmont Park.

The Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette, a 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-old fillies on the main track there Oct. 6, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Miss Grillo, for the same set at 1 1/8 miles on the turf the following day, are Nancy O’s options.

“She trains on dirt here. I think she’s a better horse on dirt,” said Costigan. “It will all depend on the condition of the dirt that weekend. If it’s sloppy or not on it’s best form we’ll run on the turf.”

Are You Kidding Me followed up his win in the prep for the race with a second-place finish in last Saturday’s Grade 2 Summer Stakes over one mile on turf, beaten a half-length by I’m Boundtoscore in the Win and You’re In event for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

“When I watched the race again, I thought he was the best horse,” said trainer Roger Attfield. “He’s still a green horse, too.”

Attfield plans to send Are You Kidding Me to Keeneland for the Oct. 6 Breeders’ Futurity, a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race that offers Grade 1 status and a $400,000 purse and is a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

“Right now, there’s no magic about turf,” said Attfield, who sent out Are You Kidding Me to graduate impressively over six furlongs on the main track before his recent turf ventures. “I needed to run him a mile, or something in that range, and I just ran him on turf because other races weren’t going at the right distance.”

Kabel, agent part ways

Avelino Gomez Jr. had returned to the jockey agent ranks to represent Todd Kabel early last month, but he has informed the stewards here that he no longer will be acting in that capacity.

Kabel, a six-time Sovereign Award, was relicensed as a jockey by the Ontario Racing Commission this April after being absent since the end of the 2009 meeting.

The jockey had violated racing commisssion rules regarding illicit drugs or alcohol, and the conditions of his reinstatement required that Kabel complete the last seven months of an existing post-violation agreement plus an additional 12 months.

Kabel returned to action here April 22 and had ridden 24 winners from 243 starts for purse money exceeding $1.3 million mounts before he failed a Breathalyzer test before the evening card of Aug. 29.

Following an Aug. 30 racing commission ruling that was not made public, Kabel submitted an application for reinstatement on Sept. 5, and his request was granted at a hearing on Sept. 7.

Kabel was here on Sept. 9 to breeze Riding the River, whom he had ridden to victory in the Grade 2 Nijinsky and Grade 2 King Edward for trainer Dave Cotey. But, after failing to keep morning engagements through the next three days, Kabel lost the mount on Riding the River and has not been back to the racetrack.

Kabel, who remains eligible to accept mounts, did not respond to a voice message left by Daily Racing Form .