In a written decision March 19, hearing officer William Greely has reversed a decision made by Gulfstream Park stewards and has disqualified Green Girl from victory in the Feb. 3 Suwannee River Handicap (gr. IIIT).
As a result of the hearing officer's ruling, Gary Zwerling’s La Dolce Vita, who finished a half-length back in second, was declared the winner. Green Girl was placed last.
Greely determined that Ronchalon Stable’s Green Girl did not carry “the full weight assigned for the race from the paddock to the post,” which is a violation of Gulfstream Park House Rule Article II (D) (1). A 6-year-old mare trained by Christophe Clement, Green Girl became fractious and unseated rider Rene Douglas twice before the race. Douglas did not remount Green Girl until she went into the starting gate.
Immediately after the 1 1/8-mile turf event, Mark Hennig, trainer of La Dolce Vita, protested the results. After a Feb. 14 hearing was held by Gulfstream stewards, the protest was denied by a 2-1 decision. Zwerling vehemently protested the decision by the stewards and appealed a few days later.
“Obviously I was delighted to hear the stewards' ruling was reversed making La Dolce Vita the winner,” Zwerling said in a March 20 statement to The Blood-Horse.“I want to thank the management of Gulfstream Park who made it clear from the start that, rather than cover up what had happened, they were interested only in preserving the reputation and integrity of Gulfstream and its rules, no matter what the eventual outcome.
"They went out of their way to assure as fair a hearing process as possible and to find a hearing officer without reproach — Mr. Greely. I remain quite disappointed with the stewards, however. They blew an obvious and incredibly easy call to make at the time of the race by not scratching Green Girl. In the first hearing, one of the stewards defended that by saying their first responsibility is to assure safety, so they hadn't forced the jockey to remount a fractious horse. Well, safety could also have been assured by scratching the horse as is required by the rules when the weight isn't carried paddock to post. And if not the stewards, who is responsible for the safety of the bettors?
“Most of those betting do so through simulcasts or online, and even many if not most of the on-track bettors at Gulfstream watch on screens from the tent, walking ring, etc., and don't see the race directly. None of those had any way to know one horse was given the huge advantage of carrying no weight for such a long time.
“Anyone can make a mistake, so I accept the initial error by the stewards in failing to scratch Green Girl. But by then upholding themselves in the protest hearing, I think they showed nothing but hubris and arrogance.”
Both Green Girl and La Dolce Vita were retired after the Suwannee River. Neither had a previous graded stakes victory.