What were the judges thinking at Mohawk?

09:48 AM 04 Sep 2014 NZST
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Harness Racing
Starting gate is sliding at the start of the race

On Labor Day Monday at Mohawk Raceway the ninth race had a starting gate malfunction at the beginning of the race and the decision made by the Judges has quite a few harness racing and wagering fans shaking their heads in disbelief?

It seems that at the start of the race the starting gate began to slip sideways on the muddy track, then as the starter gave the word “Go” the starting gate did not accelerate. It had no traction on the sloppy surface and hesitated before moving forward. The wings closed but the starting gate could not get out of the path of the four outside horses. Those drivers had to take back and wait until the starting gate regained traction and pulled out of the way.

Upon watching the video replay you can clearly see the far outside horse, Romance In Camelot, was trying to leave but driver Doug McNair had to restrain him from running into the starting gate and as a result got away in sixth place. The other three drivers pulled back as well and headed the only place they could, down to the rail.

To watch the video click here.

As the field reached the quarter pole the inquiry light was already illuminated on the video screen and the track announcer confirmed the inquiry due to the confusion at the start. The race continued without any more problems, at least until the Judges hastily thought it over and came to their decision.

The race was surprisingly NOT declared a “no contest” and to add fuel to the fire, the Judges scratched the four outside horses 4, 5, 7, & 8 (the 6 horse was an early vet scratch) declaring them “non-starters” and ordered refunds on all wagers involving them, including those on #7 who had rallied to finish third, but was subsequently scratched. The race including the one, two order of finish plus the horse moved up to third (who had actually finished last) was then declared official.

Why was the race not declared a “no contest” when clearly more than half the field was hindered due to the issues with starting gate? Why was there no show wagering on the race yet they paid off on a trifecta?

Attempts via email and calls to the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) have gone unanswered as of press time for this article. We were told on one of the calls to the ORC that a statement or findings on the race would be issued to the public after due diligence was completed. We are still waiting for this notice to be sent out.

It is wrong to come to any conclusions before hearing what the ORC has to say about the Judges call in this race.  But it is more unfair to the betting fans to be subject to such confusion on this race and loss of wagers made on a race that should be been declared a “No Contest.”

The fact that it occurred in Ontario; a tightly regulated jurisdiction that often refunds wagers on horses who were deemed to have not been given a fair start; coupled with the fact that the race took place at its flagship Standardbred only racing facility that is known for giving the average bettor more information night in and night out about nearly every aspect of the horses and horsemen in each race than anywhere else in North America, makes the Judge’s ruling that much more questionable.

The decision not only affected the betting in that specific race, but everyone who had a live Pick 3 wager (1st, 2nd, or last leg) as well as the Pick 4 (1st & 2nd leg) which we doubt was considered when the decision to declare the four horses that were impeded by the starting gate "non-starters", thereby making them post-race scratches.

This then created an incredibly confusing scenario as to which bets were winners in that race (i.e., the aforementioned  #7 horse that finished third, but was later scratched because he was one of the four impeded by the starting gate) along with what constituted a live pick 3 or pick 4 wager (3-5 favorite was one of the post-race scratches) going into the remainder of the races which were subsequently cancelled due to unsafe track conditions. Then why was there no show wagering on the ninth race? And more and more and more….Whew….

As Ricky Ricardo would say to Lucy…..”I tink you got some splaining to do!”

By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com 

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