The Laurel Race Course stewards said they will experiment with new procedures governing inquiries after a third-race disqualification yesterday took fans by surprise.
With more than $100,000 at stake, fans wagered fervently on Gallant Stinger in the first half of the double triple, which requires bettors to pick the top three horses in the third and fifth races. Gallant Stinger, the even-money favorite, galloped away to a 12-length victory, followed by Witch Half (6-1) and Hail Empress (13-1), whereupon a 13-minute delay ensued.
The stewards immediately called for an inquiry concerning the early part of the race, but, in keeping with custom, did not announce the horse or horses being investigated. Meanwhile, an objection was lodged against fourth-place finisher One Ten And Change for alleged interference at another point in the race. Only her number flashed on the infield tote board, which displayed the first four finishers: 1-5-6-4.
During the lengthy review, fans were unaware that Gallant Stinger was the focus of the stewards' inquiry. She had drifted out shortly after leaving the gate, carrying Double Debbie into the path of another horse who nearly fell after clipping heels. No objection was lodged against Gallant Stringer.
Her demise came suddenly, when the numbers 1-5-6-4 were erased from the tote board and replaced by 5-6-2-10. One Ten And Change was disqualified, and to the shock of many, so was Gallant Stinger. The double triple wasn't hit, meaning Thursday's jackpot begins at $100,120.50.
Chief steward Clinton Pitts Jr. said the stewards have not announced the subjects of inquiries, nor flashed their numbers on the tote board, for fear of confusing and possibly alarming horseplayers, particularly those less experienced. He also said the stewards occasionally are uncertain as to who has initiated any interference at the time inquiries are posted and therefore are reluctant to flash numbers.
That is about to change, at least temporarily. Following discussions yesterday stemming from the third race, the stewards said they will begin announcing the subject of their inquiries on an experimental basis. Because it is a stewards' procedure and not a racing regulation, the new practice can begin immediately, according to Pitts.
Pitts said the stewards will review any inquiry on television replays before apprising the placing judges and track announcer, who then will inform the public which horses are involved.