Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

Duke Of Earl Wins Amid Confusion At Philadelphia Park


Did he clip heels with Bunt? Track stewards don’t think so.

The last of the major track steeplechase races for the season ended with a little excitement at Philadelphia Park, Oct. 8.
   
Nine horses started the $30,000 allowance optional claiming race in Bensalem, Pa., all their trainers looking for irrigated ground to run on before the major money races later this fall.

Kingfisher Farm’s Duke Of Earl and leading jockey Xavier Aizpuru came out the winners, but not before a little controversy.
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Did he clip heels with Bunt? Track stewards don’t think so.

The last of the major track steeplechase races for the season ended with a little excitement at Philadelphia Park, Oct. 8.
   
Nine horses started the $30,000 allowance optional claiming race in Bensalem, Pa., all their trainers looking for irrigated ground to run on before the major money races later this fall.

Kingfisher Farm’s Duke Of Earl and leading jockey Xavier Aizpuru came out the winners, but not before a little controversy.

With no real pace setter, Long Lane Farm’s Swimming River (Paddy Young) took the slow lead around the 21⁄16 mile course. With a few fences to go, several horses were bunched together, including Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Bunt (Matt McCarron), Augustin Stable’s mare Imagina (Jody Petty), Clorevia Farm’s Great Gusto (James Slater) and Duke Of Earl.

As they rounded the turn with one fence to go, the bettors’ favorite Lead Us Not (Danielle Hodsdon) and Swimming River were in a good position, with Duke Of Earl not far behind. What happened next is what is in question. Bunt appeared to clip heels with Duke Of Earl, causing Bunt to fall and slide awkwardly into the turf.

Duke Of Earl did not lose ground and was able to pass Lead Us Not to get the win by more than 2 lengths. Trained by Jack Fisher, of Monkton, Md., this is Duke Of Earl’s second win this year.

“He ran perfect,” Aizpuru said. “It was pretty straightforward.”

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Aizpuru didn’t even know Bunt’s fall had happened. “I didn’t feel a thing; he never missed a stride,” he said. “I do believe Matt that it did happen. It does not take much to bring a horse down at those speeds.”

Because the incident occurred at a pari-mutuel track, the National Steeplechase Association officials had to defer to the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission stewards. The stewards inquired about the alleged incident, and McCarron told them his version of the story, but according to McCarron they did not investigate it properly.

“They never asked Xavier anything,” McCarron said angrily. “They never interviewed him. They said they could not see anything at all. I don’t understand; they have many views to look at. Xavier’s horse came out ever so slightly on the turn, and that was just enough to cause my horse to clip heels.”

At NSA non-track races, typically the jockeys involved are interviewed, all available footage is reviewed, and patrol judges who are positioned along the course give their version of any potential infractions. Many times a race is not called official for half an hour.

McCarron does not believe that Aizpuru intentionally came over on him, and because of that he did not claim foul on the winner. But he did wish the stewards had taken more time to assess the situation.
 
“They just don’t seem to care,” McCarron said. “They just wanted to move on to the next race and get us all [steeplechasers] out of there.”

Although Bunt was vanned off the course, his trainer Richard Valentine said it looks like he is going to be fine, and Valentine is hoping to run him again later in the fall.

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“It was a horrible fall,” Valentine said. “They were very worried about him. He must have acted sort of stunned so they vanned him off. He cooled out OK. We will have to see how he is later in the week. I imagine he will be pretty sore. This is not the first time something has happened to him; he really seems to have a lot of bad luck.”

Racing went much smoother in the $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle.

Trained by Sanna Hendriks, the Chilean-bred first-time starter Rainiero (Petty) ran with a full field of maidens. At the turn from home, Rainiero hooked up with The Price Of Love (Hodsdon), and the two horses battled all the way in the stretch with Rainiero half a stride ahead at the finish line.

“That has to be one of the best maiden fields we have had all year,” Petty said. “I was worried about all of them. They are all good horses.”

Whenever Hendriks gets a new horse from south of the equator, she turns it out for a year to get him acclimated to the northern hemisphere, so Petty has been watching his progress.

“He’s a good jumper,” Petty said. “He really has taken to it, and Sanna has done a great job getting these horses fit in such horrible conditions. He still had something left and just dug in at the end. He wasn’t going to let Danielle by again.”

Sarah L. Greenhalgh

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