WOW, what a race and what a decision by the stewards to leave the Bob Baffert trained Game On Dude as your longshot (at almost 15-1) winner of the most controversial non-disqualification finish in Santa Anita Handicap history! And Baffert had entered 4 horses in this race including the early leader (and 2nd betting choice) First Dude, so I guess it was only fitting that the finest chick on the grounds led one of his dudes to victory.
And it was exciting to be in and around the winner’s circle as the racing world debated (during a 12 minute video tape review by the stewards) whether or not the first female winner of the ‘Big Cap’ Chantal Sutherland should’ve been taken down for her horses’ bumping incident at the top of the stretch (which you can see clearer if you click on the picture to the right that I took from the press box). Victor Espinoza, who was aboard the 2nd place finisher and 25-1 shot Setsuko even said “I don’t know why it took so long to make the wrong decision. I think the stewards are blind.” Refreshingly, Espinosa is allowed to speak his mind…could you imagine if David Stern was the racing commissioner? I could see Victor being suspended and fined most of his day’s earnings for that comment!
So after receiving many boos and plenty of cheers too on her way back to the jock’s room, I caught up with the winning jockey after changing silks before the final race of the day (which she finished in 3rd at odds of 20-1) and she explained her entire viewpoint of what could’ve cost her greatest victory while possibly affecting the race’s heavy favorite Twirling Candy’s chances as well (although he was ruled to have been responsible for the bumping incident).
How’s this for a photo finish in the biggest annual race on the West Coast?
And I then spoke with the winning trainer Bob Baffert who was beaming after his 2nd straight Big Cap win and 3rd overall…
The best part of my day was sharing smiles with Chantal in the press room afterward as she got to more fully enjoy the biggest win of her career. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person who has continued the tradition of being as friendly as she is professional like a couple of Hall of Fame Canadian jockeys who preceded her (and who I’ve had many interactions with) in Ron Turcotte and Sandy Hawley.
Congrats Ms. Sutherland!