Gaming Commission reviewing Sanford disqualification

It turns out Magna Light won Saturday’s Grade II Sanford at Saratoga Race Course after all — for now
Jockey Jose Ortiz and Magna Light approach the finish line in the Sanford Stakes Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Jockey Jose Ortiz and Magna Light approach the finish line in the Sanford Stakes Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

It turns out Magna Light won Saturday’s Grade II Sanford at Saratoga Race Course after all — for now, anyway.

But odds are that shared victory will be short-lived.

The New York State Gaming Commission Monday declared Magna Light and Uncle Vinny co-winners of the race while it rules on a protest filed by Magna Light owner Michael Dubb.

Magna Light finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Uncle Vinny, but the stewards determined Magna Light cost Percolator, who finished third, a chance for second. Uncle Vinny was declared the winner; Magna Light was disqualified as winner and dropped to third.

Now, the Gaming Commission is putting the final results of the race on hold as it weighs Dubb’s protest.

“Horses Uncle Vinny and Magna Light are both declared winners until this case is adjudicated by the New York State Gaming Commission,” the agency said in a release.

But Lee Park, a spokesman for the gaming commission, said there has been only one other such protest of a disqualification this year, out of Finger Lakes, and it was rejected. He said the odds for success of such an appeal are a long shot at best.

“Typically, disqualifications are not appealable,” he said. “Typically, the appeals are rejected. The stewards have the authority.”

That authority is laid out in state law governing horse racing:

“The stewards are vested with the power to determine the extent of disqualification in case of fouls. The stewards may place the offending horse behind such horses as, in the stewards’ judgment, the offending horse interfered with, or the stewards may place the offending horse last, and the stewards may disqualify the offending horse from participation in any part of the purse.”

Dubb could not immediately be reached.

No matter the ruling, it will still not affect the payout of wagering on the race.

Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg, co-managing partner of Starlight Racing, owners of Uncle Vinny, said on Monday this type of protest is unique.

“I’ve never, never seen it before, disputing what is the opinion of the governing body that is supposed to look at these things,” he said. “If [Dubb] feels he needs to do it, go ahead and do it.

“My personal opinion is he’s taken it too far. I can [still] respect the decision because he has the right.”

Park said, unlike some other sports leagues, there is no specific rule prohibiting owners or others from disparaging racing officials.

Magna Light was the best horse as he led the field toward the wire in Saturday’s feature, but his sudden zigzagging cost him the race by disqualification, giving it to Uncle Vinny.

Magna Light, ridden by Jose Ortiz, led from start to finish, with a sharp move laterally to his right inside the eighth pole. He was so well clear of the field that everyone behind him maintained a straight line, including Uncle Vinny and jockey John Velazquez on the outside. Magna Light kept veering, though, and ducked back toward the rail, at which point Percolator was in the vicinity.

Dubb was quoted in media reports after the race that the disqualification was the result in part of bias against his horse’s trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, perhaps because he is Mexican. Dubb is a member of the New York Racing Association Board of Directors.

“I think the words were in poor judgment,” Lucarelli said, “but everybody has their moments.”

There was a steward’s inquiry as well as an objection lodged by Kendrick Carmouche on Percolator. The ruling dropped Magna Light to third.

“I thought they were going to look at it, but not take it down,” Rodriguez said after the race.

The decision affects the $150,000 purse and the right to be called the winner. There is no timetable on ruling on the protest.

Lucarelli, while defending Dubb’s right to file a protest, said it does not bode well for horse racing, especially since Dubb is a NYRA board member.

“I don’t think he should be doing it — for the sport,” he said.

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