The connections of Star Dabbler have filed a protest with the Indiana Horse Racing Commission centering around the 3-year-old colt's dead-heat victory in the $513,200 Indiana Derby (gr. II) Oct. 7. Owner Barry Schwartz and trainer Michael Hushion, who feel their entry hit the wire first, faxed the protest to the IHRC Oct. 9.
"I saw the photo picture on the 15-foot screen and I couldn't believe it," Hushion said. "I got in touch with Mig (jockey Richard Migliore) and he thought he had won. He said the fans were screaming at him coming back that he got robbed. He tried to get a hard copy of the photo from the stewards and they would not give him one. Even if you go to Racereplays.com, you can clearly see daylight between his nose and other horse's nose; a good 2-3 inches."
Hushion sent assistant trainer Graham Wolfram to Hoosier Park in his stead, instead watching the 1 1/16-mile contest via simulcast. Star Dabbler established the pace before briefly giving up the lead to Cielo Gold in the stretch. Migliore rallied his mount back along the inside to create the photo finish.
"I don't know what to make of it," Migliore said. "I thought I got back in and won. I kept saying, 'I'm coming back, I'm coming back; yeah, I nailed him.' I usually know when I get back up in a race. It's pretty hard to fathom. I can only think someone made a terrible mistake."
After a lengthy deliberation, stewards determined there was a dead heat for win. Hal Wiggins, trainer of Cielo Gold, had conceded victory to Star Dabbler.
"I felt we had our nose in front every jump except the last one. I honestly thought we got beat," Wiggins said after the race. "I watched the slow motion (replay) and it looked like we had our nose in front and right when they hit the wire it looked like I could see the shadow roll of that inside horse. I thought we probably lost by an inch or so."
Schwartz and Hushion wasted little time filing their protest following the Indiana Derby. Now, they must wait for IHRC Executive Director Joe Gorajec to review the submission. According to IHRC assistant executive director Deena Pitman, both Gorajec and the commission's legal counsel are on vacation. Gorajec is not scheduled to return until Oct. 24.
"Really, this is kind of a first; we haven't set a protocol yet. That won't be determined until he (Gorajec) gets back," Pitnam explained. "They (connections) did what they thought was right, and they did it in a timely manner."
Star Dabbler has since been retired after suffering an injury to his left front sesamoid. The 3-year-old retires with three wins in seven career starts and earnings of $319,936, all accomplished this season. He was bred in Florida by Four Horseman's Ranch and The Saint Ballado Syndicate.
"He was slightly off when he came back, and it got worse. We took X-rays and he has a fracture of the front left sesamoid," Hushion said. "He was a brilliant horse with a nice family, and we're hoping someone contacts us about stud plans."