Travers Investigation: A Job Well Done
I praise racing commissions about as often as I play Frisbee with manhole covers, but the New York State Gaming Commission deserves credit for the manner in which it conducted the investigation into the running of the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
The NYSGC's final report on the matter was comprehensive and puts to rest any question about the use of an illegal electrical device by jockey Luis Saez on Will Take Charge, the Travers winner. This is the way racing regulators should operate: thoroughly and, in the end, transparently.
Had the regulators not done their work so thoroughly and professionally, the sport would be plagued with so-called grassy knoll conspirators who believe the game is crooked. Had New York racing stewards or the NYSGC quickly dismissed losing trainer Eric Guillot's charges – baseless and ridiculous as they have been proven to be – Saez would have a dark cloud following him throughout his career. Unfortunately, as it is, his name will be linked to the controversy for years to come and the jockey is entitled to ask Guillot, “Where do I go to get my good name back?”
If Guillot truly believed Saez carried the device, based on a video his brother took and then was downloaded to his cell phone, he should have filed a complaint with racing officials and kept his mouth shut. He didn't.
“I brought them the video,” Guillot told the New York Daily News. “I showed it to 100 people, ain't been one person to deny it yet. You see a blurry, black device go from the right hand to the left hand and then he drops it.”
It's too bad Guillot can't be billed for the NYSGC's costs of the investigation or fined – as jockeys occasionally are for a frivolous claim of foul. He seemed to almost enjoy the spotlight this case brought him and his baseless charge against Saez appeared to be part of an ongoing, senseless taunting campaign of Will Take Charge and his trainer, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. For his part, Lukas showed tremendous restraint throughout the investigation, as did Saez, refraining from portraying Guillot as the buffoon he turned out to be.
The biggest statement they made came three weeks after Guillot filed his complaint, when Will Take Charge decisively defeated Moreno – the horse who lost the Travers by a nose – thanks largely to a brilliant ride by Saez.