Uncle Vinny ascends in Sanford on questionable disqualification

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

July 25th, 2015

For the first time since 1938, the winner of Saturday's $150,000 Sanford (G3) was decided in the stewards' room at Saratoga. Their verdict, although popular with a large swath of win bettors, was widely derided.

The record book will show Uncle Vinny as the official winner of the Sanford, giving trainer Todd Pletcher a sixth win and jockey John Velazquez his seventh in the six-furlong dash for juveniles. Uncle Vinny was not, however, the best horse.

That honor goes to Magna Light, who, although erratic in the stretch, was clear enough in front to have avoided any physical contact with the horses behind him. However, the judges ruled his drifting in and out in the stretch obstructed third-place finisher Percolator's attempt to finish second.

Magna Light bucked what some perceived as a track bias against front-runners and led from gate to wire in the Sanford. Hounded briefly by Bashford Manor (G3) winner He's Comin in Hot into setting splits of :22.52 and :45.98, Magna Light dispensed with that rival at the top of the stretch and was comfortably holding off a bid from Percolator when things got interesting inside the eighth pole.

Reacting to left-handed urging from Jose Ortiz, Magna Light drifted out several paths while maintaining his lead. Percolator was not touched. Magna Light then drifted back in closer to the wire. Percolator again was not touched.

Magna Light crossed the wire three-quarters of a length ahead of the closing Uncle Vinny in a time of 1:10.92 over a fast track. Soon, the inquiry sign was posted and an objection from Kendrick Carmouche, the rider aboard Percolator, was lodged.

With no actual contact made between Magna Light and Percolator, it's hard to give credence to the stewards' decision to disqualify Magna Light from first to third. It's true enough that Magna Light did not maintain a straight course, but all views available to the public call into question the argument that Percolator was unjustly denied second place, seemingly due to slight intimidation. Carmouche's own brief hesitancy in riding the final yards, as well as the horse's likely fatigue, arguably affected Percolator's placing more than Magna Light, who certainly misbehaved but with room to spare.

Magna Light, sent off at 13-1 in the Sanford, officially moves on with one win in two starts, having broken his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths in an off-the-turf maiden event at Belmont Park June 28 going five furlongs.

Uncle Vinny, who gradually advanced from fifth to fourth to second, returned $10 as the 4-1 co-third choice in the field of 10. Starlight Racing owns the son of Uncle Mo, who took a five-furlong maiden at Belmont by 4 1/2 lengths May 21. However, he was a nondescript seventh as the even-money choice in the $246,000 Tremont 15 days later after getting bumped at the start.

Bred by Gilbert Campbell in Florida, Uncle Vinny was sold for $175,000 at Keeneland September. He's now earned $141,500.

(Sanford finish photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)