Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting a fair shake in Philly no walk in the Parx

It isn't often I write about losing horses from my sales-tip list. But a race today at Philadelphia Park -- excuse me, Parx Racing -- has me fuming.

I have plenty of doubt that Lookin At Options, an $8,500 purchase off my EASMAY shortlist for a client seeking bargain horses, would have won the first race today in Philly. But he sure might have finished second, and I know beyond doubt that he lost all chance at the break in one of the worst cases of gate interference you could ever see go unpunished. I know the horse who slammed him and pinched him back, Novelle Prize, did manage to finish a clear-cut second. And that despite spotting the field more than a dozen lengths after being crushed between horses and forced back at the break, Lookin At Options ran on to win a photo for third.

This should be an easy decision for stewards. They don't have to take down Wayne the Train, the 3/5 favorite who won by 7 1/4. They don't even have to knock a clear-cut second-place finisher all the way to last, because the horse he victimized at the break -- a horse who had every reason to quit, but didn't -- persevered after regaining his stride and managed to finish third.

All stewards have to do is reverse the order of finish between the place and show horses. Yet they refuse.

And I can't understand it. Maybe stewards figure Novelle Prize would have finished second anyway, but that's utterly indefensible judgment. The foul by Novelle Prize against Lookin At Options contributed to the latter horse trailing the gate-to-wire winner by 12 1/2 after a quarter. Lookin At Options was only beaten by the winner by 13 1/2 at the wire, so he didn't lose much more ground in the final 3 1/2 furlongs of a 5 1/2-furlong race, while Wayne the Train was creating serious distance between others in the field.

Carried a step further, Lookin At Options trailed the horse that fouled him, Novelle Prize, by 11 1/2 lengths at the first call after the infraction, and by only 6 1/4 lengths at the wire. Lookin At Options made up 5 1/4 lengths on the offender once he got a chance to start running.

Besides, refusing to punish a blatant case of interference at the gate -- even if you think (or the odds suggest) the interfering horse was the better horse -- in effect results in rewarding said interference. Do that very often and you're asking for mayhem. It's a wonder jockeys at Philly Park aren't punching each other on the backstretch or something.

I'm not the only one who has noticed that stewards at Philadelphia Park, and within Pennsylvania in general, regularly seem to be off the mark.

When I griped via Twitter about today's ruling, this was the first response from the betting/race-fan public: "There are no rules in PA. ... I was down at Parx not too long ago and the whole place needs an attitude adjustment."

That was followed by another person's comments: "Best way to sum up PHA stewards: Three Blind Mice. ... Nothing surprises me at that joint. Absolutely nothing."

Mind you, I didn't even have money on this race, in which Lookin At Options at more than 28/1 paid $5.20 to show and would have paid much more to place. And I certainly don't own the horse. (If I did, they might have to be extracting some of my teeth from somebody's ass after that despicable "no change" decision.)

Maybe racetrack politics played a role. Despite their equally diminutive statures, Kendrick Carmouche (20th nationally in earnings) aboard Novelle Prize almost certainly has more weight to throw around at Philly Park than does Gary Wales (253rd), who rode Lookin At Options. And Dixiana Stables (103 starts this year) and trainer John Servis (55 wins from 361 starters) are much bigger players than Trin-Brook Stables Inc. and Bleu Max Stable (seven starts), who own Lookin At Options, and trainer Uriah St. Lewis (just one win from 78 starts).

But the arbiters of right and wrong have to look past the names and reputations of the involved parties, not to mention the odds of the horses. They must make the fair call regardless of the players.

Bottom-line, Uriah St. Lewis bought an $8,500 horse at EASMAY, and that horse might have been good enough for second place today (and should have been placed second) among seemingly much better company, running for a $25,000 tag. The horse lost all chance at the start, and the horse that robbed him of that chance finished second and was allowed to stay up. Stewards stole $2,520 from the pockets of the owners and trainer of Lookin At Options -- the difference between the checks for second and third -- and if you think that doesn't matter, try paying the bills on even a bottom-rung claimer for a few months.

Stewards also shafted the few who might have been holding "place" tickets on a 28/1 shot.

Parx Racing is one of the tracks I've yet to visit on the East Coast.

And if the place can't manage to run a fair race, I'll just leave it off the list.


  1. Glenn
    Save your time and energy,Years ago Beyer called this place a'souless betting factory'.
    Nothing has changed.Live 22 miles away and avoid like a plague.The word is out.
    Will be the first track where the purses will be more than the betting handle.

  2. Thanks for adding your views.

    I've only placed a couple of bets on races at Philly through the years. I can't legally account-wager from North Carolina, so I can only drive an hour to an OTB or bet when I'm actually at a racetrack somewhere. Thus, I place a wager or two here and there on Philly races (usually if I "know" a horse in the race), but rarely.

    This call, like several others I've witnessed on video in the past, was just appalling. And I don't even think there was a stewards' inquiry initially. Had there not been a jockey's objection, I don't think it would have ever gotten a second look.

    Wish I could get the replay video to post.


I welcome comments, including criticism and debate. But jerks and the vulgar will not be tolerated.