10/02/2012 2:00PM

Woodbine: Ontario Racing Commision rules against Natalma Stakes appeal


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – A three-member panel headed by Rod Seiling, chair of the Ontario Racing Commision, on Tuesday morning denied an appeal by trainer Carolyn Costigan regarding the result of the Sept. 15 Natalma Stakes.

The decision followed more than two hours of testimony at the nearby Ontario Racing Commision offices.

Costigan had contended that Nancy O, who is owned by her father, Bob Costigan, and Harry Dobson, had been interfered with shortly after the start of the Natalma, which Spring Venture won by 1 3/4 lengths.

Nancy O finished third, a neck behind runner-up Spring in the Air. Both Spring Venture and Spring in the Air are trained by Mark Casse.

The stewards did not announce an inquiry after the race and Nancy O’s rider David Moran did not lodge a claim of foul, but Costigan appealed the following afternoon after reviewing video replays of the Natalma and meeting with the stewards.

The Ontario Racing Commision expedited the matter because the Natalma is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, with the winner earning a fees-paid berth to the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita and a $10,000 travel allowance.

Lawyer Harvey Swartz represented Casse and Spring Venture’s owners Gary Barber and Jim Stone.

Costigan acted as her own counsel and Jennifer Friedman represented the Ontario Racing Commision.

Witnesses included Bill McMahon, the ORC’s senior steward on the day of the Natalma; Spring Venture’s jockey, Patrick Husbands; and Casse. Moran was not called to the stand.

“The 7 [Spring Venture] did break in, but it appeared that the 6 [Nancy O] was a step slow getting into stride,” testified McMahon.

“There was incidental contact but at no time, in my opinion, did you see David [Moran] take hold of his horse. There was no reason to disqualify, in my opinion.”

Husbands admitted there was “slight contact” between the two fillies.

“It was only for a split second, and I got her straightened out and left room for him. I don’t believe Moran ever had to check his horse.”

Husbands and Casse both testified that they believed Nancy O’s slow start precipitated the incident.

“I think our filly came over a touch, prompted by the other filly breaking slowly, and headed for the open space,” said Casse. “The other filly never lost her momentum.”

Costigan attempted to introduce a split-screen video, prepared by a professional, which she said coordinated the head-on and pan shots and would prove that Nancy O did not in fact break slowly.

Seiling refused to allow the evidence, however, as the videographer was not on hand to testify and the video could not be authenticated.

“An infraction did occur, and the horse lost ground as the result of an infraction,” said Costigan, in her closing submission.

Seiling said the ORC’s written reasons for the decision will be forthcoming.