… and what the future holds for objections now that he lodged one in the Breeders Crown.
by Dave Briggs
Why do drivers rarely file objections?
Four days after Yannick Gingras filed one after Friday’s $600,000 Breeders Crown final for 2-year-old pacing colts, the driver said the reason objections are rare, even in major stakes races, is that most of the time judges are already on the case.
“Honestly, I feel the judges do a fine job. I think 99 per cent of the time when I would file an objection, the judges are either looking at it or they’ve taken a horse down or something,” Gingras said Tuesday. “I think they do the job correctly. A lot of times, you could be going to the paddock to file an objection and the Inquiry sign is up by the time you get there.
“I think in most cases, it’s usually pretty blatant and you figure the judges are seeing it anyway. Let’s say somebody hits you or the horse is on the gallop or something like that, or if you jerk a horse like five-wide with somebody in front of you… Like I said after the race, I feel like the judges have a job to do and that’s the reason that I don’t put in objections. That’s part of the reason that a lot of guys don’t do it.”
Gingras lodged the objection after David Miller, driving Papi Rob Hanover, touched wheels in deep stretch with the sulky wheels of Tall Dark Stranger, driven by Gingras. Papi Rob Hanover crossed the wire a mere neck in front of Tall Dark Stranger, but upon review, judges reversed the order of finish, elevating Tall Dark Stranger into the winner’s circle (replay here).
The judges’ decision marked the third occasion in which the first horse to the wire in a Breeders Crown race was demoted. That Fabulous Face in 1998 and Corleone Kosmos in 2007, were disqualified for making breaks.
In the case of Tall Dark Stranger vs. Papi Rob Hanover, Gingras said had he known the inquiry sign was already up, he never would have put in an objection.
He said he couldn’t see the tote board from beyond the wire and the configuration of the paddock at Woodbine Mohawk Park played a role in his decision to object.
“At the Meadowlands, I can be in the paddock office within 30 seconds of the race being over. You’re right over there in the first turn and you can come right off the track and, maximum, 45 seconds later you’re in the paddock office at the Meadowlands. So you can look at the board and see the Inquiry sign if not call the judges,” he said. “Because of the set-up at Mohawk, you turn all the way into the first turn and you turn around and come back. The paddock (entrance coming off the track) is not where we come out with the horses… it’s on the backside (of the building), so it takes me a minute-and-a-half to get back there.
“At that moment, I just didn’t want to come back to the paddock office and then see the race was ‘Official.’”
As for the specifics, Gingras said he rejects the notion that touching wheels had more impact on slowing Papi Rob Hanover down.
“Actually, it’s the opposite of that,” Gingras said. “(Tall Dark Stranger was) coming back and (Papi Rob Hanover) was only, maybe, a head in front of me, so my race bike is behind his. I’ve got a clear path, and you could fit a whole horse between him and I, before he darted left. We’re not even near each other and my horse is coming back on, or his is stopping, either way you want to look at it, but regardless I’m making up ground on him. So, when he darted left, I hit him from behind. So, actually, I pushed him across the wire. He didn’t push me across the wire. He didn’t slow down, I slowed down, because when he moved into my path and I hit him, I pushed him further away from me.
“If I felt like I wasn’t going to win the race, I would’ve never said a word.
“Believe me, I would much, much rather that he hadn’t come into my path. Then, we would’ve been talking about how game my horse was and how he came back to beat him, because (Tall Dark Stranger) was coming back to beat him.”
Papi Rob Hanover’s trainer Brett Pelling isn’t so sure about that last part.
“The one thing, and I don’t mind going on record and saying it, is that other horse was not coming back and if there was one thing that bothered me about (Friday) night was that the language that was said was that the other horse was coming back. He wasn’t coming back. Papi is an incredibly intelligent horse. He was a head in front. He knew he was a head in front and he was cool with it,” Pelling said.
“It’s all about impeding progress. I didn’t see progress being impeded. Yannick drove the entire length of the stretch. He never stopped driving. The person that stopped driving was David.”
As for whether drivers should file objections, Pelling said that’s up to them.
“There’s different ways of saying it, but what happened (Friday) night, we’ve seen that 100 times,” Pelling said, referring to the alleged infraction, not Gingras’ objection itself.
“Ron Pierce drove horses for me for many, many years. There was more than one situation where he came back and said, ‘Gee, that wasn’t right,’ but, you know, they have their bit of etiquette. It’s really, totally, not my call. I would never say to a driver ‘You need to object.’ It’s part of the game, but it’s part of the game that we don’t really see much of.”
Pelling said he worries that some drivers may have more of an advantage than others when an objection is filed.
“In those situations, there are some drivers that are much better in expressing (themselves), much better orators than some other drivers are; more convincing,” Pelling said.
Gingras said he disagrees that how articulate a driver is makes a difference.
“Just because I put an objection in, I shouldn’t have to talk to the judges. Okay, maybe to tell them what to look for, like, ‘He came into my path,’ but using hockey as an example, if you say there was goalie interference… then the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
Gingras said a rare set of circumstances led to his objection in the Breeders Crown, including the future value of the horses in question.
“It’s way more than the $150,000 (difference on the line), because now my horse (likely wins) divisional honors, but otherwise, it’s a 50/50 shot. They’re studs. It’s a lot more money than $150,000 involved here,” Gingras said. “If I felt my horse was going to be second regardless, I would have never said one word at all.”
Gingras said he thinks his last objection before Friday’s incident came more than 15 years ago at Yonkers. He said he doesn’t know if his latest objection will be the start of a trend in major stakes races, “but I don’t think it would be a bad thing if it is. I don’t have a problem if someone put in an objection against me if I did something wrong. It’s the same thing. Most of the time I think the judges would see it anyway, but if a person feels that the judges may not have seen it for the same reasons as me, or if he has other reasons in his mind, I have no trouble… The more right calls we get, the better it is for the sport.
“If it gives another guy the confidence to (object in the future), then I’m happy for them if that’s all they needed to push them over. I’ve got no problem with that, either.”
Gingras said he’s friends with Miller and the two watched the replay on a bench together waiting to see who was going to be heading to the winner’s circle.
“I’m not worried about what’s going to happen on the racetrack, because that’s racing, but he is my friend. We have a relationship outside of racing, but it is what it is. I’ve never really worried about what people are going to think,” Gingras said. “I have a wife and three kids that I worry about and, other than that, I’m not worried about fans or stuff like that. Like I said, it had to be a perfect set of circumstances (for me to object), but I’m not worried about what people think of it.”