Reacting to strong criticism, California racing steward Scott Chaney explained the decision to allow the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) (VIDEO) win Nov. 1 by Bayern to stand in spite of obvious interference at the start.
Later in the morning, stewards met with Bayern's rider, Martin Garcia, and determined that no suspension was warranted.
"Films revealed that Mr. Garcia corrected his horse immediately (second stride), and therefore in our unanimous opinion, no penalty was appropriate," the stewards said in a statement.
Chaney, speaking to reporters for about 20 minutes in the press box at Santa Anita Park Nov. 2, discussed the stewards' deliberations into whether there were any infractions during the start of the controversial $5 million race.
Garcia, aboard Bayern, took a sharp left coming out of the gate in the 1 1/4-mile race and bumped hard with 5-2 race favorite Shared Belief, who in turn banged into Moreno in a chain reaction. Bayern, getting clear while angling to the rail, led all the way en route to a 6-1 upset that drew much criticism from fans and media in the immediate aftermath of the race.
Bayern defeated Toast of New York, who was involved in the rough start of the race as well, by a nose.
Shared Belief was also forced to check when impeded by Toast of New York a short time after being bumped while suffering the first loss of his eight-race career. It likely ended his bid for Horse of the Year honors. Chaney said stewards also plan to meet with Jamie Spencer, rider of Toast of New York.
Chaney said the three-member stewards panel, also including Kim Sawyer and Tom Ward, came to unanimous agreement on the decision to let the result stand even though there was obvious contact.
"We all agreed, the number 7, Bayern, broke in, but did it cost the number six, Shared Belief, or the number four, Moreno, a placing? We talked to Mike Smith (Shared Belief's jockey) and Martin Garcia...in our determination it didn't happen at a point of the race where it changed where they were reasonably expected to finish."
Shared Belief finished fourth, 3 3/4 lengths behind third-place finisher California Chrome . Moreno, expected to contest Bayern for the lead, never got into the race and was eased while crossing the line last in the 14-horse field. Chaney said the stewards felt that Moreno came out half a path at the start, contributing to his rough start.
Chaney said no claim of foul was made with the "quick official" located past the finish line by either Smith or Javier Castellano, the rider of Moreno.
“We got an all-clear from our quick official. No rider objected. We went back and looked at the start and saw the incident," he said. "We hung the inquiry sign and conducted our normal inquiry."
To criticism that the incident changed the race by eliminating the pace rival Moreno, Chaney said, "Did it change the outcome? Any interference could. At the start of a mile-and-a-quarter race we're really loathe to make a change. You really don't want us handicapping the race."
Chaney said there were actually two incidents affecting Shared Belief, the initial bump with Bayern, and a second incident about 150 meters later when Toast of New York drifted into the favorite's path, causing Shared Belief to take up sharply off heels. Stewards looked at both incidents but decided to focus on the initial rough contact, Chaney said.
He said California Horse Racing rule 1699 covers race riding infractions and gives stewards leeway in determining if disqualification at any point in a race is warranted.
"Obviously, subjectivity is written into the rule. We could go back to the old way of 'a foul is a foul' but that leads to inequitable results," Chaney said. "We've gotten away from that. The current rule requires us to make some determination if the horse is cost a better placing.
"The casual wagering public sees interference and expects some sort of punishment. But this rule is not about punishment but about creating some equity. We're trying to get rid of that unfairness. Over time, this is a lot more equitable than the old rules."
As for Garcia, Chaney said, "The question is, did he make enough effort to keep his horse straight?"
He said there was no evidence to suggest that Garcia had purposefully caused contact with the horse to his inside but that officials intended to further discuss the matter with the rider.
"We all agreed there was interference, no question, Bayern broke in. Three or four horses suffered interference. But how much did it affect the outcome? Even if we thought there was interference it may not lead to disqualification."
Chaney said it was not a difficult call for the stewards to allow the result to stand.
"I hate to say it was easy because it's dangerous to appear cavalier, but it was not difficult," Chaney added. "We analyze it the same we do every day as if it was the sixth race on a Thursday afternoon. It's the same process.
"There is a danger to going back to the 'foul is a foul' approach. Racing fans would be disappointed with that approach."
Rick Baedeker, executive director of the CHRB, said "The board will likely take a look at the rules. They may take some subjectivity out of the process. It really was a perfect storm for this. It's very subjective, a mile-and-a-quarter race at the start. It's the most difficult situation for them (the stewards) to be put in."
He said the issue would certainly be discussed at a statewide meeting of CHRB stewards scheduled for Nov. 18.
Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer of Shared Belief, said he had no comment on the stewards' decision.
Fellow Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who earned his first Breeders' Cup Classic win with Bayern, said the "incident detracted from Bayern's win somewhat and it's too bad."
Of Shared Belief, Baffert said, "You need racing luck and he didn't have it, and that's what this game is all about."