Strange Day at Ellis: Camera Failure, Dropped Whip, Huge Show Payoffs

Release from Ellis Park
What are the chances of the computerized photo-finish camera malfunctioning either electronically or by human failure in a $100,000 Stakes race?

What are the odds for a 1-5 favorite with three consecutive graded New York stakes victories to his credit finishing out-of-the-money in the following race, also a $100,000 stakes?

How about a rider dropping his whip in the final 50 yards of a $100,000 race?

All of it happened Saturday at Ellis Park, where Murphy's Law worked overtime.

In the Debutante, Playing 'n Gold, ridden by Joe Judice, gained a slim advantage on the stretch turn, but soon was joined from the outside by 7-10 favorite Lakeside Cup and jockey Lonnie Meche.

The dead-game fillies raced as a team through the final furlong and the first rarity happened: Jockey Lonnie Meche dropped his whip about 50 yards from the finish.

But that was small potatoes compared to what was about to occur.

The race was off at 4:15 p.m. (CDT). After 12 minutes, a winner still hadn't been declared.

The horses continued to be circled outside the winner's circle with the rider's still up. Fans in the stands were fuming while owners and trainers of the combatants were sweating.

One of the track's three stewards announced that the photo-finish, either by electronic or human means, had malfunctioned. And, that they, and the placing judges, would account for the order of finish - eventually.

They dead-heated Playing 'n Gold and Lakeside Cup. They were four lengths in front of third-finishing Ghost Queen. Official running margins were provided by Equibase Co., LLC.

It was old hat by the 10th race when the photo-finish again malfunctioned.

"Nobody knows what exactly happened or haven't said," said steward Steve Obrekaitis. "We can't stand over everyone's shoulder every minute."

Ellis Park vice-president/general manager Paul Kuerzi said that by Sunday morning, he'd "get to the bottom of the problem. We can't have this kind of thing and it'll be taken care of," added Kuerzi. "I guarantee everyone that."

Overcoming the outside post, Playing 'n Gold worked her way in early to battle for the lead three abreast and raced fractions of :21.83 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, :44.46 for the half. The track was rated "fast" and the "winners" were timed in 1:25.17.

Owned by Ken English and Alan Braun of Evansville, Ind., and trained by Bob Holthus, Playing 'n Gold, a daugher of Honour and Glory, was making her first start in stakes company. She carried 114 pounds and paid $2.80, $3, $2.40.

Lakeside Cup, previously stakes placed, races Dreabon Copeland and is conditioned by Bernie Flint, toted 113. A daughter of Salt Lake, she paid $2.20, $2.40, $2.20. Both fillies earned $40,625.

Request For Paraole Sends Bridge Jumpers A Leapin'

In the Juvenile, Stephen Barberino Jr.'s Buster's Daydream was supposedly unbeatable after romping in Belmont's Grade III Flash, Grade III Tremont and Saratoga's Grade II Sanford.

But by the end of the race, he looked plain average.

Backed down to .20 to the dollar (1-5), Buster's Daydream broke in front, never looked comfortable, struggled with the footing while racing third into the stretch and flattened out to finish fourth.

Judice was again the beneficiary. He rallied Request for Parole through along the rail entering the stretch and the dark bay colt by Judge T C won by 1 1/2 lengths. Twin Talk reached the front in the upper stretch but settled for second, seven lengths over Classic Hero.

Buster's Daydream was another three lengths back in fourth.

Nearly $353,000 was wagered in the show pool. The "bridge jumping" plungers around the country were out in mass. All but $10,000 of it was wagered on Buster's Daydream. With the son of Housebuster finishing out of the money, the show payoff were huge.

Owned by Sam and Jeri Knight and trained by Steve Margolis, Request for Parole paid $24, $17.60 and $134.60. Twin Talk returned $22.20, $195.80. Classic Hero paid $230.60. Request for Parole, winner of only a maiden race coming into the Juvenile, carried 114 pounds and earned $61,250. He was timed in 1:24.37.