08/04/2013 12:56PM

Woodbine: Steward stands by decision in Seagram Cup

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Alpha Bettor won the Grade 3 Seagram Cup for the second straight time here Saturday. But the story of the race was Ultimate Destiny, owned and trained by Alec Fehr, who finished second but was declared a non-starter when the stewards ruled that his gate had opened prematurely, creating  an unfair advantage.

All wagers were refunded, and Fehr was out $36,000 as a result of the decision.

“The stewards’ decision on the validity of a start is final,” said Gunnar Lindberg, one of the three stewards on duty. “We looked at it and looked at it. It’s not an easy call. When we can clearly see that one set of doors opened before the rest, that’s an advantage. The horse ran a huge race; it’s unfortunate.”

The Equibase footnotes for the Seagram Cup say that “Ultimate Destiny left with the others, despite his gate opening prematurely.”

Lindberg noted, however, that whether an advantage was actually gained does not factor into the stewards’ decision in such cases.

“If you make it black and white, that makes it very easy,” Lindberg said. “If you try to make it gray, that opens a can of worms.”

Fehr is scheduled to meet with the stewards Friday and has the option of lodging an appeal with the Ontario Racing Commission’s head office.

While Ultimate Destiny may have had incidental contact with the gate, it was nothing like some prominent examples from recent years. Indian Apple Is broke through the gate at the start of an allowance race here in 2009, “gaining a half-length advantage,” according to the footnote, and was deemed a non-starter.

Fifty Proof also broke through the gate at the start of an allowance race here July 22, 2010, a fact that was noted by the chart caller but not detected by the stewards at the time. John LeBlanc, the trainer of runner-up Peter’s Charisma, appealed that decision to the ORC, but the appeal was denied.