Kentucky Stakes Rule Penalizes Trainers Looking For Best Spot

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Jennie Rees of Courier-Journal…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

A rule that needs to be scratched (well, actually, rewritten to exempt stakes)

A bizarre Kentucky regulation required the scratch of Console in Friday’s Phoenix, with Medal Count and Oogley Eye to be scratched by the stewards from Saturday’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.

Here’s what happened: The regulation requires a horse who is on the “also-eligible” list for a race that overfills, then is entered in and gets in the body of another race, will automatically be scratched from the race in which it is on the AE list (akin to a waiting list). Such rules almost always apply only to overnight races, not stakes. But the Kentucky regulation makes no exception for stakes, where owners pay nomination, entry and starting fees to run.

As it turns out, there were scratches in the Phoenix and expected defections in the Breeders’ Futurity, so the horses would have gotten to run in those races. But one doesn’t know that going in. And because Bill Mott entered Console in Saturday’s Woodford turf sprint, and Dale Romans entered Medal Count and Oogley Eye in Sunday’s Bourbon on turf as back-up plans, they unwittingly put themselves in positions to be scratched from the races in which they really wanted to compete.

The irony (and what makes this particularly galling) is that horses who get in the body of two stakes can run in either. Example: Hogy being scratched from the Phoenix to run in Saturday’s Shadwell. And trainer Todd Pletcher double-entered Intense Holiday in both the Breeders’ Futurity and today’s Champagne in New York, with the colt running in the Champagne – which otherwise would have made room for one of Romans’ horses.

But trainers who are entering their horses in other spots to ensure they get a chance to run are penalized, as are their owners.

And this is serious business this time of the year, with so many of these races “Win and You’re In” challenge events where the winners get their entry fees paid to the Breeders’ Cup. Including the Phoenix and Breeders’ Futurity.

Yes, those horses still have a shot to run (and in Breeders’ Cup challenge races) but not in the race that their trainers obviously thought suited them best. What are they supposed to do? Not enter another stakes, hoping for a scratch that might not come?

Chief state steward Barbara Borden said the stewards must apply the rule as written, and that it’s clear that the horses must be scratched. Romans argued that another reg exempts stakes, but Borden said that applies only to race preference lists, which are different from also-eligible lists.

“The rule doesn’t exclude stakes,” she said, showing a reporter the rule.

She said the stewards will ask the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to review the regulation. “It’s a rule that definitely needs to be reviewed, and we will put in our two cents in as to what it should say,” she said.

Those two cents no doubt will be two words: add “except stakes.”

This bad rule was exposed because of Keeneland’s full stakes fields, the fact that there is so much crossover between Polytrack and grass racing, and that Keeneland had stakes for both surfaces so close together.

Making it worse, Console had already gotten his Lasix medication four hours before post time, and then was scratched.

No doubt it was an oversight by those who drafted/wrote/fine-tuned the regulation. But it’s still highly embarrassing to get its major flaw uncovered on one of the biggest racing weekend’s in Kentucky. The good thing is that the high-profile nature means the rule has the best chance to get corrected, quickly.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

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