For as long as I've been going to the races I've heard grumbling from horseplayers that photo finishes are somehow “doctored” to get a desired result. Tracks used to post photo finishes throughout the facility in the days before digital photography. That didn't seem to help. (“Hey, look, they shaved the nose off that brown horse.”)
Most tracks now put photo finishes up on television monitors once the order of finish is determined and a race is made official. Some tracks (all should, in my opinion) post photo finishes on their website for everyone interested.
That hasn't stopped the conspiracy theorists who complain that the placing judges, stewards, and anyone else in a position of authority have never lost a photo (I'm not aware of any jurisdictions that allow wagering by these officials). There are people out there, who, when they're not busy trying to disprove the moon landing, insist that someone, somehow, is altering the result of a horse race's photo finish, either by shaving off noses or moving the finish line.
The latest example came on Sunday when Russell Baze scored his 12,000th career victory aboard Handful of Pearls in the final race of the closing-day program at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton in Northern California. Handful of Pearls looked home free until Angel Sanchez and long Here It Tiz came flying in deep stretch. It was far too close for track announcer Frank Mirahmadi to call.
Skeptics were sure Here It Tiz was in front at the wire and that Pleasanton officials, wanting to have bragging rights to the Hall of Fame jockeys' latest milestone, put up Handful of Pearls' number. Yes, really, there are some people who think that way.
It was close. Very close. But the photo finish camera indisputably shows that Handful of Pearls had her nose in front when it counted. That photo is quite a keepsake for America's all-time winningest jockey.
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