A Baltimore County Circuit Court has reversed the controversial Maryland Racing Commission ruling that overturned Lady Winner's first-place disqualification in the Martha Washington Handicap at Laurel 15 months ago.
Judge John Grason Turnbull II's decision Friday marked the latest twist in a long-running episode wrought with international implications. This decision removed the $45,000 victory from the French-owned Lady Winner and gave it to Yestday's Kisses, essentially upholding the Laurel stewards' action in the Oct. 28, 1989 race.
Ira C. Cooke, an attorney for Issam Fares and Maurice Zilber, the owner and trainer of Lady Winner, said yesterday his clients will appeal. The deadline is Feb. 24.
The case stems from an incident on the far turn during the Martha Washington Handicap, when Lady Winner bulled through a tenuous opening between the rail and Bearing Testamony as she surged to the lead. On the way she angled out slightly and bumped Bearing Testamony, who then was pinched between Lady Winner and another horse.
After she went on to win easily, Lady Winner was disqualified for interfering with Bearing Testamony and placed sixth, advancing Yestday's Kisses from second to first and Whip Cream from third to second.
Zilber called the decision "a scandal" and appealed to the racing commission, which voted, 3-2, to overrule the stewards and award the victory to Lady Winner after hearing testimony and reviewing films.
The owners of Yestday's Kisses and Whip Cream appealed to the court, having lost $30,000 and $6,750, respectively, with the commission's verdict.
In his opinion, Turnbull determined a Maryland racing regulation to imply that a decision by the stewards is a judgment call not appealable to the racing commission. However, in the course of its routine regulatory review, the state has deleted wording in the rule, so subsequent cases became appealable. As a result of that change, legal experts said this is not likely to become a precedent-setting case.
"This particular case has really no relevancy other than to the parties involved," said Bruce Spizler, the assistant attorney general assigned to racing.
Nevertheless, the court decision marked a victory for the stewards, who have been overturned by the commission with greater frequency the past two years in matters of disqualification.
"Stewards," wrote Turnbull, "not the commission nor this court, are cloaked with the authority and the expertise to make decisions immediately after objections are rendered, and those finding of facts should not be disturbed unless the stewards misapply rules as set forth within the racing commission's regulations."
Raney Breaks Leg in Fall
Apprentice jockey Leon Raney broke his right leg in a third-race spill yesterday after his mount, Easter Rosette, tripped on the heels of Paul's Sister nearing the stretch. Raney also complained of hearing loss. Raney, 29, missed several months after breaking the same leg in a fall June 30. . . .
In the feature race, Hagland wore down Night Slew in the stretch to win the $17,000 allowance by a head. Hagland, ridden by Marco Castaneda, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:19 1/5 and paid $7.40. . . .
Exercise rider Bryan Antley, 21, younger brother of jockey Chris Antley, was reported in stable condition at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center following a training accident at Pimlico yesterday morning.