Nearly 16 months after crossing the finish line first, Rahy’s Appeal may now finally be the winner of the $150,000 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct.
State Supreme Court Judge Vincent J. Reilly Jr. this week turned back a claim by the owners of the second-place finisher, Malibu Mint, that their horse should have won by disqualification because an errant strike of the whip by Rahy’s Appeal’s jockey hit Malibu Mint in the face.
Because the strike was ruled unintentional, Reilly found, it did not rise to the level of disqualification. Reilly noted rules that call for disqualification only for “careless” or “willful” striking.
“In this case, no such specific finding was made, as the striking of Malibu Mint was found to be merely ‘unintentional’ “, Reilly wrote.
In making the ruling, Reilly agreed with the state Racing and Wagering Board’s findings in the case. The appeal was filed in Schenectady County by Malibu Mint’s owners, Martha Jane and John Mulholland of Lexington, Ky., because it is the home of the state board’s executive offices.
The decision creates the unusual circumstance where bettors were paid out as if Malibu Mint won, while owners are paid with Rahy’s Appeal winning.
The decision means that Rahy’s Appeal is now the winner in the history books and in the purse, with the extra $60,000 in winner’s payout given to Rahy’s owner, Marlene Brody of Ghent, Brody’s attorney, Karen Murphy, said. The purse has been held in escrow as the dispute played out.
Murphy said her client is delighted by the outcome. The win is an “enormous feather in one’s cap” for career and breeding.
“It was absolutely correctly decided by the board,” Murphy said. “It’s a monumental thing to change the outcome of a race, but it requires a foundation and the board understood that.”
Rahy’s Appeal was first across the line in the race on Nov. 24, 2006, winning by three lengths over Malibu Mint. But that decision didn’t last long, after track stewards noticed that Rahy’s Appeal’s jockey, Alan Garcia, struck Malibu Mint with his whip.
Although the stewards determined “the contact was inadvertent,” according to an Associated Press account of the race, Malibu Mint and jockey Eibar Coa were declared the winner. And its that decision that led to the bettors payout.
Reilly noted in his decision that it was undisputed that the strike caused Malibu Mint to pause.
“Those are the rules,” Coa said after the race. “It is very unfortunate for them and fortunate for me. I was very lucky. That horse was going by me.”
The initial appeals were made by Brody, the owner of Rahy’s Appeal, first to a hearing officer, then to the Racing and Wagering Board, which overturned the steward’s ruling and restored Rahy’s Appeal as the winner. The board found the stewards lacked the authority to disqualify Rahy because no rule explicitly made unintentional striking improper, a decision Reilly upheld.
The board has since clarified the rule to give more discretion, Murphy said.
Attorneys for the Mulhollands could not be reached to comment on whether they would appeal the decision.