When the same distance can vary greatly
BY DICK POWELL
Now let’s see. There are 12 inches in a foot. Three feet in a yard. 220 yards in a furlong so 110 yards in a sixteenth of a mile. You with me so far?
So down at Gulfstream Park, also known as “The Wild, Wild West,” they ran some turf races last weekend in between the raindrops. Race seven on Saturday at Gulfstream Park was scheduled for 7 ½ furlongs on the turf with the temporary rail set way out at 108 feet. The run-up to the timing pole was a lengthy 289 feet, which according to my math, is over 96 yards.
Race nine was at the same distance and temporary rail position, but the run-up was now 305 feet or over 101 yards. And race 11 was run at the same distance and temporary rail position, and the run-up was 321 feet or 107 yards.
All the run-up distances were on the Gulfstream Park simulcast feed so there were no surprises. But my problem goes back to the simple mathematics. A 7 ½ furlong turf race with a 321 foot run-up is three yards short of a mile. Wouldn’t it make more sense when conditions dictate that the distance of the race be changed to one mile instead of 7 ½ furlongs plus 107 yards?
When these horses run back and they are in against horses coming out of other 7 ½ furlong races run on other days, you better go back to look up the temporary rail position and run-up distances to make any valid comparisons. I know the inside part of the turf course was not good and they wanted to give the horses more room into the first turn but just change the distance to a mile and it would be a lot easier on all of us.
Gulfstream’s “Wild Wild West” reputation has been earned over the years. For me, the absolute rock bottom was last year’s Florida Derby (G1) debacle where, as the sun was setting, there was no steward’s review of the bumping in the stretch that may have affected the outcome and plenty of confusion surrounding whether one of the riders wanted to claim foul.
I wrote about it in April and said there was no way there would be a review of the circumstances of the incident and am still waiting. Let’s take a walk down Memory Lane and read what I wrote on April 2nd.
This was not a rush to judgment -- this was no judgment at all. How they could have made their decision in such a short period of time was impossible and to say that they did is an insult to the industry.
Horseplayers have their own levels of paranoia but how else could a rational person feel after Saturday? There was a big crowd, the races were running behind schedule, the sun was going down and now an infraction happened in front of the big crowd. Do we stay and not only get it right but prove to the betting public that we took the time to get it right or do we just make it official and go home?
Any horseplayer worth his salt knew what was going to happen. We have seen it numerous times under different circumstances but inevitably we accept it since there is nobody to complain to. Florida doesn't really have a racing commission but a Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. An investigation should be conducted with interviews of the stewards, track management, the outriders and Ortiz and Velazquez. Develop a timeline and determine not only what happened but how can it be prevented from happening again.
If you believe that will happen, say hello to the Easter Bunny for me next Sunday.
Last Saturday, there was a late rider switch in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes when Matthew Rispoli was replaced at the last second by Javier Castellano. Trainer Marcus Vitali was well within his rights to switch jockeys but the timing of the move is an issue.
The problem is the substitution was barely announced and many horizontal bets had already been made before it became known. Unless the original rider was injured in a prior race, these kind of rider changes should be announced at noon along with the other changes on the card.
Gulfstream Park management has been more responsive to customers in recent years. But the racing almost exists in a vacuum with horses shipping in, running races like never before, and not being able to replicate that form anywhere else. It’s no surprise when a horse like Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy) wins a stakes race by more than 21 lengths, in an outrageous time faster than most Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders at nine furlongs, and then loses her next two starts at other tracks as the heavy favorite.