Thursday, July 9, 2009

Above and Beyond the Call

by Sandra Warren

In the 6th race on July 2 at the Pleasanton County Fair, Jose Contreras had the mount on the 2yo Warren's Truly Art (no relation to me). The chart says he was fractious in the post parade, but that does not begin to describe it. When they left the paddock and started the post parade, Warren's Truly Art shied away from the pony and bolted across the track, directly perpendicular to the safety rail. I feared a crashing accident, but Jose managed to turn the horse at the last second so that he only bumped hard against the rail, unseating Jose. The horse also tumbled over, then got up, ran off only a few yards and was caught, while Jose rolled under the safety rail to protect himself while he gathered his wits. He sat under the rail for several seconds, holding his head and in obvious discomfort. I expected a scratch of either jockey or horse.

After a while, Jose got up and immediately walked over to be remounted. This surprised me quite a bit. He got back on and a handler led the horse over to the outer rail, where Jose carried on a conversation with two EMTs. All he had to do was say, "I don't feel so good," and he would have been off of the troublemaker. Instead, he indicated that he would continue. He turned the horse around and started to head down the track, and once again, the horse bolted at the pony and headed for the same spot, once again turning at the last second and unseating Jose again. I thought for sure this time he'd beg off, but instead he remounted and tried again. This time the pony maintained his distance, and a handler walked the horse a few yards, then released him. Jose immediately put the horse into a canter and rode off toward the seven-eighths pole while the crowd cheered a bit too loudly. The horse tried to bolt again at the turn but was unsuccessful.

In the meantime, the horse's odds went from 11-1 to 31-1 very quickly, and of course he ran last as anyone could have expected him to. In my opinion, the racing officials should have scratched this horse to protect the bettors. At Pleasnton at fair time, there are a lot of amateurs playing $2, and I heard all around me people saying that the horse might run well since he was so spirited. I tried to set as many of these people straight as I could, but not one of them got up and cancelled their bet. I looked like a genius a minute later when he indeed ran last.

But what hardly any of these people realized was that under CA rules, Jose was paid his losing mount the moment he stepped onto the track with Warren's Truly Art, seconds before the first dust-up. If he had scratched himself (which he could have easily done when he talked to the EMTs), he would have made the same exact amount of money as he did for struggling with that lunatic for another 15 minutes. I'm sure he knew that the horse could not run well after those antics, but he persevered for the OWNER, who was the only person who stood to make more money if the horse came out of the starting gate. We get money for shipping and money for starting, but the horse must start. Any late scratches are unpaid. I can't remember the last time I saw a jock risk himself not once but three times for a losing mount fee, just to benefit the owner. Jose Contreras deserves some props for doing a journeyman's job.

Sandra is a lifelong horseman who won her first race with her first racehorse and has been hooked ever since. She currently has horses in training in CA and DE, and also works with several horse rescue and retirement groups.

No comments: