In a roughly run edition of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), the Bob Baffert trained Bayern took the field from bump to wire to win, returning $14.20 for the victory, leaving the connections of the other horses and horseplayers around the world wondering what the California stewards might have been thinking.
With Martin Garcia aboard, Bayern veered in at the break, bumping into the betting favorite Shared Belief and compromising the start of fellow pace threat Moreno. There was no doubt Bayern benefited greatly from the rough start.
Had this been the NHL, Garcia would have received a four-minute penalty for cross checking and a game misconduct.
However, this is horse racing, and the stewards explained it this way:
“After speaking with patrol judges and riders involved, it was our unanimous decision that, pursuant to CHRB Rule 1699, the incident occurred in a part of the race where the horses interfered with were not cost the opportunity to place where they reasonably expected to finish.”
Others had different opinions
“I think it cost me the race,” said Shared Belief jockey Mike Smith. “I was never able to get comfortable after getting hit at the break. I kept getting bounced around all the way around the turn and Moreno kept getting out and bumped through the backside. Even so, he ran a dynamite race.”
Shared Belief trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is known as a man of few words. He simply stated, “You saw what happened.”
His assistant Dan Ward reportedly directed a few obscenities toward the steward’s booth before storming off the racetrack in disgust.
“We lost our race at the break when (Bayern) shot out of there and ran into everyone,” said Moreno’s jockey, Javier Castellano. “That pretty much took us out of the game.”
(For more on the controversy and for some early Twitter reaction check out my article on Bleacher Report titled Did Bayern Deserve 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic Win After Controversial Start?)
What is perhaps most perplexing to fans and horseplayers is the inconsistency of steward’s decisions. They vary greatly from state to state, and from day to day.
Let’s face it, this was a tough call, and you never want to have a $5 million race with Horse of the Year honors hanging in the balance decided by three people in a video room. Let’s decide it on the racetrack.
However, in this instance, a clean start may have changed the race shape. Moreno may have been able to press Bayern early, and that could have given the undefeated Shared Belief a better chance to close into fast fractions.
It tosses the Horse of the Year race on its head, which also would have happened if Bayern was disqualified and Toast of New York declared the winner.
Overall, it was an unsatisfying end to a subpar Breeders’ Cup. On the bright side, we get out of California next year, and there is no doubt Keeneland is going to put on a much better show.
$5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Results
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show
7 Bayern Martin Garcia 14.20 8.00 5.20
9 Toast of New York Jamie P. Spencer 18.00 10.80
13 California Chrome Victor Espinoza 5.40
$1 Pick 3 13-14-7 (3 correct) 5,108.60
$0.50 Pick 4 12-13-14-7 (4 correct) 18,335.35
$2 Pick 6 6-7-12-13-14-7 (5 correct) 114,472.00
$2 Daily Double 14-7 556.00
$1 Daily Double DISTAFF CLASSIC DOUBLE 10-7 24.70
$1 Exacta 7-9 124.90
$1 Superfecta 7-9-13-6 3,817.40
$1 Super High Five 7-9-13-6-11 8,678.20
$1 Trifecta 7-9-13 1,043.60