by Garnet Barnsdale
Race 8 at Yonkers Friday night featured an incident where the two leaders hooked wheels around the second turn, and thankfully, all the horses that were racing behind them were deftly taken out of harm’s way.
What set social media alight, however, was the path that the eventual second-place finisher, Betabacool N, took to get around the trouble that plagued the $50,000 fillies and mares open mile dash.
While many of the trailing horses were steered wide and around the trouble, 59-1 shot Betabecool N – who had left last after starting from post 8 – was steered off the course into the safety lane around the turn and she came out of the trouble on the lead.
Betabecool N was overtaken at the half by eventual winner, 4-5 race favorite Newborn Sassy. Betabecool N finished second, in a large part due no doubt to the ground saved during the incident. Some bettors were wondering why – after a lengthy inquiry – the result was allowed to stand when she had been clearly off the course when she passed the field. “How can a horse go from worst to first in the infield and stay up?” asked horseman Jimi DeLucia rhetorically in a lengthy Facebook post started by owner Howard Perlmutter.
“If they left that horse up then it should be no contest! Very ridiculous…,” commented bettor Steve Plantamura.
DRF Harness writer Greg Reinhart chimed in on Twitter by posting the replay with this comment “Gong show race of the year tonight at Yonkers. The 8 was allowed to keep her 2nd place finish.”
While trying to find a rule the judges might have relied on to allow the order of finish to stand, this was the closest I could find in the USTA Rules Book:
“A horse while on stride, or part of the horse’s sulky, that leaves the race course by going inside the pylons which constitutes the inside limits of the course, when not forced to do so as a result of the actions of another driver and/or horse, shall be in violation of this rule.
Certainly, it could be argued that driver Greg Merton was forced inside the pylons by the entire field scattering in front of him and it appeared he took the safest route for him and his horse at the moment he chose to steer left.
Some opined that he had no other reasonable choice. “He HAD to leave the course or else,” chimed in Moira Fanning of the Hambletonian Society. Her comments were echoed by Julie Allison. “They all went everywhere… it would have been too hard to try and place them,” she reasoned.
Yonkers track announcer John Hernan may have hit the nail on the head with his comments, that suggested the judges were in a no-win situation with the bettors. “Either way the judges went would have been unpopular, he did leave but it could have been a horrible scene.” He wrote. “Upon watching it several times, the judges deemed, I think correctly, Merton was justified to leave course. I think part of it is discretionary.”
While some disgruntled punters may have seen this is just “another way to lose a race”, those that cashed in on the exacta or tri would have no complaints. Maybe it’s a case of extreme “racing luck” with the best part of the entire incident being that all horses were steered to safety by their quick-thinking teamsters.