Maryland racing commissioners gave notice yesterday that they are not pushovers when it comes to reversing stewards' decisions.
The board heard two appeals involving recent rulings on riding infractions at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course and unanimously upheld the judges each time.
"What we've done," said commissioner Carol McGowan, who presided over yesterday's hearings, "is entirely consistent with decisions we made last month and were criticized for in the press [for not backing the officials]."
McGowan was referring to the board's June meeting when in one afternoon the panel overturned three of the stewards' rulings, including a controversial disqualification of the filly Norstep in the March 11 Politely Stakes. In that case, the commissioners reversed the stewards' initial decision by declaring that Oh Summer, the runner-up who had been named the winner by the stewards, was equally at fault with Norstep in a couple of bumping incidents during the race.
The board used the same reasoning yesterday, backing the stewards who refused to disqualify Glenbarra from the winning spot in the June 20 Sir Ivor Stakes at Laurel. In the race, Glenbarra's jockey, Mario Verge, maneuvered his horse through a narrow opening and caused third-place finisher Polaris Star to stumble, according to the latter horse's trainer, Eddie Gaudet.
The stewards declared both horses were equally at fault in the incident and issued no penalties. The commissioners agreed, even though Gaudet testified that his horse was "cut down and injured" during the incident.
John Krasnoff, as attorney representing the commission, said he hoped appeals in such "no-call" instances -- when the stewards don't respond with a disqualification -- would be curtailed.
But Gaudet called Krasnoff's remarks "inappropriate."
"I've done everything in this business from riding in flat races and steeplechases to driving trotters and I've been training thoroughbreds for the last 30 years," Gaudet said. "I've never appealed a ruling until now. If it's something I feel is right to do, then I'm going to do it."
The board also supported the stewards in the Gold-N-Kitty Stable's challenge. Gold-N-Kitty's filly, Frescidia, was disqualified May 23 at Pimlico after drifting in the stretch and prompting Edgar Prado's mount, Machinegungirl, to clip heels and fall. Prado broke several vertebrae in the spill and has been out of action since the race. Gold-N-Kitty claimed that the spill was caused by the sudden swerving of another horse.
The commission took little time to deliberate before each decision.
In other action yesterday, the commission has asked that state law be changed so that the Bally Entertainment Corp. could be licensed as managers of Rosecroft/Delmarva raceways.