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Reid: There is No Future Without Transparency

Published: August 7, 2015 3:25 pm ET

Last Comment: August 11, 2015 9:59 am ET | 9 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

From a Concerned Bettor, Horse Owner and Racing Enthusiast

The day started off so promising. I might live in Richmond, VA but my attention was glued to one of my favorite days in all of horse racing - Industry Day at Grand River Raceway. It made me feel ever more homesick than usual to think that I would miss the 25th anniversary of a day of racing I cherish seeing live.

Sadly, this excitement dissipated quickly at the conclusion of the second race.

It was the first stakes race of the card and featured some of Ontario's best 3-year-old pacing fillies. Solar Sister and Wrangler Magic seemed poised to have another showdown, this time on the half-mile oval in Elora, ON. All was going according to plan when the fillies made their way around the final turn with Solar Sister showing the way and Wrangler Magic anxiously waiting for clearance up the passing lane. The stretch battle never happened and at a glance to many it may have looked like Solar Sister kept Wrangler Magic at bay until a final surge just before the wire. Something had gone awry here and even before the inquiry sign was posted I tweeted: "Sure looked like SOLAR SISTER w/ McNair took away the passing lane from WRANGLER MAGIC. She blew by past wire. #IndustryDay25 #HorseRacing". There were some others on twitter that shared the same sentiment and upon watching the replays and head-on shots it was very clear that there was going to be a disqualification. It certainly isn't common but it does happen from time to time, the lead horse moves into the passing lane and impedes the trailing horse who is entitled to it, but every time it results in a placing. The inquiry into the stretch drive was taking longer than expected but there was no way they could leave this horse up, could they? With each replay the case strengthens, as Solar Sister doesn't just move slightly into the passing lane but rather take the entire path away giving Wrangler Magic no opportunity to enter it until just before the wire.

The inquiry sign comes down and to my disbelief Gary Guy announces that Solar Sister will remain the winner as posted as she did not violate the rules of the passing lane. To be completely transparent I bet Wrangler Magic and even told some friends who recently signed up with HPIBet to do the same (I advised them to take advantage of the 3% back promotion). I thought I had missed something and quickly needed a second opinion, which more quickly turned into a 3rd and 4th opinion. When everyone agreed that the horse should have been disqualified, I needed to go to the source. I called the judges at Grand River Raceway and in fairness the gentleman I spoke to was very polite and accommodating. He advised me that Solar Sister was not taken down because, while she did enter the passing lane, she did not cause any interference. I was confused and asked if entering the passing lane in the first place is a violation and I was told again, it is only a violation of the rules if interference occurs. He went onto say that while Solar Sister entered the passing lane, Sylvain Fillion (the driver of Wrangler Magic) never had to check his horse or stop driving. I pointed out that when he did have clearance that they blew by the leader after the wire and the rebuttal to this was that they only judge what happens before the finish line. I respectfully accepted the explanation but something did not feel right the rest of the day. If this was the case, why even have a passing lane and why doesn't every lead driver shift his horse over and take half the lane away every single race, yet alone when they are racing for $105K.

I found a rule book and found the ruling in question:

Rule 22.05.02.02

  1. no horse shall pass on the extended inside lane entering the stretch for the first time,

  2. the lead horse in the home stretch shall maintain as straight a course as possible while allowing trailing horses full access to the extended inside lane, and

  3. horses using the open stretch must have complete clearance of the pylons.

The above says nothing about interference. Rather, it clearly illustrates that a horse on the lead must allow trailing horses full access to the passing lane. Solar Sister provided zero access to the extended lane until it was much too late. If the passing lane is for the trailing horses, should it not already be considered their path? Meaning any kind of impediment should result in a disqualification. The rules are crystal clear but somehow on Grand River Raceway's biggest day the judges got it wrong. There was nearly $34,000 dollars wagered on the race and a purse of $105,000 on the line. With so much at stake how can something like this happen? This is not a judgment call or open to interpretation - if a horse on the lead enters the passing lane and takes away access from a trailing horse they cannot be deemed the official winner.

All the marketing in the world cannot overcome these kind of errors. Think about the tickets that were ripped up in vain by both experienced bettors all the way to the other extreme of first time race-goers. The word of mouth from either or any group in between can set racing back even further from where we once were and where we should be. If someone wagered on Wrangler Magic and was aware of the rules or made aware of the rules we might lose that person forever and have to deal with the stigma of race fixing. Was the race “fixed”? No. Could that be the perception? Of course. Consistency and transparency is needed for this sport to be taken seriously. Detailed explanations by the judges either on camera, microphone or in print where they are accountable to the decisions they make is only a start. Gary Guy should not have be forced to be a messenger with a vague explanation. The rule should be quoted, explained and an explanation of the decision should be given (like many major thoroughbred tracks do).

Harness racing has a fraction of the fan base and following of other major sports and while it might never be able to get to a stratospheric level, we only hinder it by being vague and worse sweeping incidents like this under the carpet. The biggest travesty is that in all likelihood the connections of Wrangler Magic will appeal the decision and end up being deemed the official winner of the race but what about the bettors? It will be a decision that comes much too late for the ripped up tickets and the fans/potential fans that were lost. This a beautiful sport that can be made more popular with every new person that is exposed to it but we must shake the stigmas of the past and the only way we do this is by creating an environment of accountability and transparency.

Sincerely,
Robert Reid Jr.
@RobertReidJr on Twitter


The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.

August 11, 2015 - 9:59 amMr Carter, I think drivers

John Hill SAID...

Mr Carter, I think drivers rely on the judges to do all the dirty work thus keeping harmony in the driving colony.

August 10, 2015 - 9:01 pmI hate to say it Mr Carter

I hate to say it Mr Carter but I know from personal experience all too many Judges take exception to "objections" and should they decide against you sadly it often comes back to haunt you in the future. I am sure Mr Filion is well aware of that!!

August 10, 2015 - 11:32 amIf Filion thought he had

John Carter SAID...

If Filion thought he had horse and was impeded why did he not place a drivers objection to put extra pressure on the judges to reverse the order of finish and not just rely on the judges inquiry. Let the judges know he was clearly interfered with.

August 9, 2015 - 10:02 amAssuming "Harness Racing"

Assuming "Harness Racing" actually is for the "fans"(bettors) the sport must make changes some easy some not so easy. There is a model to follow in this situation. It is used in "Professional" sports such as the National Football League and The National Hockey League. First remove Judges at individual track and use a single location Judging Centre where " Professional Judges" through electronic communication enforce the rules appropriately similar at ALL TRACKS. The tremendous financial saving could be used to promote the sport. Oh and least anyone thinks the decision at Grand River was a "one off" take a look at the two year old filly final race where a recall or a refund should/must occur because of interference before the start by the number one horse on the number nine horse!!

August 9, 2015 - 8:51 amTo become a racing judge or

Eric Poteck SAID...

To become a racing judge or steward in Ontario one must pass a 6 week course. You can contrast that with the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) where stewards must be college/university graduates and then pass a 1 year course offered by the HKJC.
It is easy to blame the stewards/judges, but it is not their fault. Until Ontario is prepared to INVEST in proper training of stewards/judges it is impossible to expect any change.
Given the current industry’s governance, only horse people can lead the change to properly INVEST and train stewards and judges.
The question is, do the horse people in Ontario have it in them to INVEST in protecting the game’s Transparency, Accountability, Fairness and Integrity?

August 8, 2015 - 2:36 pmHorrible decision, and I am

John Jackson SAID...

Horrible decision, and I am sure Grand River relies heavily on the atmosphere and racing to have return patrons. This isnt bringing them back.
Now the other elment will be those who did bet the second place horse and will expect to be compensated (and rightfully so). While those who bet via their HPI account would have record, most wont.
Rules such as this need to be published in the racing program, so the patrons know, but more importantly enforced as they are written and not subjective.

August 8, 2015 - 9:00 amI agree with Mr. Reid 100%.

I agree with Mr. Reid 100%. LACK OF EXPERIENCE or not knowing what the phrase STAYING IN YOUR LANE means by the judges while experienced bettors and the horsemen themselves can very well see that Mr. McNair did place his horse halve in and halve out of the passing lane at the top of the stretch not allowing Mr. Filion to use his right of way. LACK OF JUDGEMENT

As far as the pylons are concerned you cannot gain ground on the straight away inside or outside the pylons, but in the turns you can gain ground because the horse on the outside must travel further, as for inside the pylons, there should be no toleration, you could not go inside if there was still a steel rail. The steel rails were taken out for safety reasons and that a good thing. If you are forced to go inside the pylons by another driver, log an objection, there again it's a judge's decision.

August 7, 2015 - 6:50 pmThe response "the horse did

The response "the horse did enter the passing lane but didn't cause any interference" seems a bit out of whack; similar to some of the explanations we hear about pylon violations. Both of these rules need black and white direction and not be left up to a judge's "interpretation". This is the kind of thing that drives bettors nuts!

August 7, 2015 - 4:31 pmYou are 100% bang on. Worse

You are 100% bang on. Worse non call I have ever saw. That inquiry should have taken all of 15 seconds to place the winner second. A huge blackeye on a great day of racing at Grand River. Even worse is the bettors have no recourse to recover the money it cost those who wagered on Wrangler Magic, unless they want to spend thousands in legal fees if and when they overturn this. I would venture to say the appeal hearing should take the amount of time to pour a glass of water in the applicants glass and be overturned. No possible way the ORC can let that decision stand.


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