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After Derby DQ, time to consider new way to handle fouls

Updated May 9, 2019 - 6:28 pm

Before we turn the page on the still-simmering controversy over the disqualification of Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby, it’s worth noting that there is an alternative means of judging racetrack infractions that could have avoided the entire debacle.

The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, a nonprofit think tank devoted to tackling issues that the horse racing industry has been unable to solve, last year published a white paper that urged racing authorities to make a rule change to address inconsistent rulings in various jurisdictions.

The group noted that the U.S. and Canada are the only countries that continue to use what it calls Category 2 rules. Those rules state that if a horse interferes with a competitor and costs the latter a better placing, “The interferer is placed behind the sufferer irrespective of whether the sufferer would have finished in front of the interferer had the incident(s) not occurred.”

That explains why Maximum Security was moved all the way from first to 17th, as the Churchill Downs stewards determined that his sudden shift outward nearing the stretch cost Long Range Toddy a better placing. Under the existing rules, it didn’t matter whether the former was the best horse in the race. He had to be taken down and placed behind the horses that were bothered as a result of his actions.

But racing authorities in Europe and elsewhere use a different standard, known as Category 1 rules. Under this scheme, “If … a horse or its rider causes interference and finishes in front of the horse interfered with but irrespective of the incident(s) the sufferer would not have finished ahead of the horse causing the interference, the judge’s placings will remain unaltered.”

In this scenario, the stewards could have ruled that Maximum Security fouled War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress, but upheld his victory since none of those competitors gave any indication they would have beaten him with a clean trip.

The net effect in countries that have switched to Category 1 rules has been a sharp reduction in the number of races that are reviewed and the number of DQs.

Reducing the number of races that are reviewed is an easy way to keep the action on the racetrack where it belongs. No matter how you view Saturday’s demotion of the apparent winner, that should be a step we can all agree on.

Preakness field takes shape

The top four finishers in the Kentucky Derby are staying home, but a field of 11 appears to be shaping up for the second leg of the Triple Crown on May 18 at Baltimore’s Pimlico racetrack.

Those expected to run: Alwaysmining; Anothertwistafate; Bodexpress; Bourbon War; Improbable; Laughing Fox; Owendale; Signalman; War of Will; Warrior’s Charge; and Win Win Win.

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicapping crew is tackling the $100,000 Mamzelle Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs and the $700,000 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park.

In the former, a 5-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies, the crowd ’cappers like 3-1 morning line favorite Abyssinian, one of three Wesley Ward-trained lasses in the race, with stablemate Chelsea Cloisters (7-2) and Play On (9-2) rounding out their top three.

Abyssinian looks good to me as well, having chased top grass filly Bulletin through the early stages of her last race. I’ll use Queen of Bermuda (6-1) and Catherinethegreat (8-1) in the minor placings.

In the Man o’ War, a 1⅜-mile test on the inner turf at Belmont Park, the crew is solidly behind 5-2 morning line favorite Focus Group for trainer Chad Brown, with Zulu Alpha (4-1) and Epical (10-1) filling out the trifecta.

“It’s turf and it’s Chad Brown,” wrote crowd ’capper Howie Reed of the group’s choice. “Fits in well with these. Turned the corner last August and has been flying since.”

I agree that Focus Group is going to be tough, but I’ll take a shot with Epical, a California shipper who’s sharp right now and should control the pace. I have Focus Group and world traveler Magic Wand (3-1) in the minor placings.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Friday. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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