New York Stewards Gain Additional Discretion

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board has approved a proposal by the New York Racing Association to allow stewards more flexibility in determining disqualifications of horses that veer in front of a rival during a race.

The rule would now allow for stewards to consider "mitigating factors" in its decision to disqualify a horse that "interferes with, impedes, or intimidates another horse." Currently, the rule calls for the automatic disqualification of a horse that impedes another horse's progress down the stretch, regardless if it ultimately altered the finish of the race.

NYRA proposed the rule change last August after the controversial disqualification of Quest in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Quest, ridden by Javier Castellano, was disqualified from second to eighth. Iron Deputy clipped heels with Quest in the stretch and threw jockey Richard Migliore.

The proposal will now be filed with the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform. If approved, it would be published in the State Register for a 45-day public comment period. It would then be sent back to the board for formal adoption. Board spokesperson Stacey Clifford said the process is likely to take several months.

Castellano, who was given a 10-day suspension for the incident in the Jim Dandy, appealed the stewards decision but it was denied by the board Jan. 28.

Also at the meeting, the board postponed a review of Juan Serey's training license at the request of his attorney, Karen Murphy. Serey was given a 90-day suspension for positive drug tests of two horses under his care, but he subsequently stopped training last April. He now hopes to return to training, but officials have said the suspension will not begin until he again is an active trainer.