The Friday Show Presented By The Woodbine Jackpot $1.1M Carryover: Anti Rabbit Stew-ards?

by | 09.01.2017 | 8:50am

In top older horse Gun Runner's last start in the Whitney Stakes, owner Ron Paolucci entered 62-1 longshot Cautious Giant to push the pace and try to set things up for his Loooch Stables mate, War Story. It didn't work. Gun Runner romped by 5 1/4, War Story was off the board, and Cautious Giant walked across the finish line last.

But Paolucci won't get a chance to try those tactics again in Saturday's Woodward Stakes. New York stewards rejected his entry of a horse that recently competed in 870-yard races at Los Alamitos after he told them the horse was solely in the race to serve as a “rabbit” for War Story.

Right or wrong decision?

In this week's Friday Show, Scott Jagow and Ray Paulick lock horns with opposite opinions on the issue. Plus, do the results of this year's wild and crazy 3-year-old division indicate a good crop or a bad one?

Watch below and share your thoughts.

  • Michael Castellano

    I think folks missed a main point regarding the use of rabbits. In essence you are allowing a trainer or owner to use one or more of their horses for the expressed purpose of beating another horse or horses, with no concern for their own rabbit winning. So they use up their horse on the lead with no regard for saving something for the stretch. That usually weakens the speed’s chances, but you did so unfairly, by throwing the rabbit horse to the wolves. It’s a frank admission that your other horse needs “help” to win the race. You can point out that this had long big the practice in racing, but it was unfair 50 years ago and is unfair today. The rabbit is often aimed at one particular front running horse, and increases the closers chance while decreasing the front runners. I recall that other than a disqualification even though he won by six lengths and broke a track record, the only two races lost by Dr. Fager at 3 and four were when rabbits were used against him in 1 1/4 races. A frank admission that he could not be beat without “help.” It’s like having one boxer fight another for three rounds, and then substituting a fresh boxer after the first was used to exhaust the competition. I have never subscribed to the notion that closers deserve that kind of help. Why then not have an entry to help speed horses?? They would race on the outside of a front runner, but not go too fast, and force the competition to go three or four wide? I’ve seen this done in crooked harness races. They call it riding shotgun,

    • Tinky

      You are essentially wrong.

      First, rabbits do win on occasion, and even in big races. Secondly, how is it “unfair” to test a free-running horse’s ability to adapt?

      Rabbits are anachronistic in the U.S., but are still used effectively in Europe. They are typically not used to kill the chances of any particular speed horse, but rather to insure an honest pace. And iIt could be argued that by doing so, the rabbits are helping to create the fairest possible, and most meaningful outcome, as the eventual winner will need to show both speed and stamina.

      • OopsyDaisy3

        My thoughts exactly. Every trainer who has NEVER entered a horse as a rabbit come forth and post your name. Paolucci’s honesty was refreshing. Linda in Texas

      • jimmy ski

        Didn’t Lustra cause trouble in Hawthorne’s big race one time and should have caused Cryptos D.Q.They let the result stand.

        • Tinky

          Good memory! here’s the account from the Tribune:

          Bailey contended that Cryptoclearance defeated runner-up Proper Reality by 1 1/4 lengths because pacesetting Lustra ran interference for his entrymate at the three-eighths pole. Thus, both halves of the Teinowitz entry were in danger of being disqualified.

          Compounding the situation was another foul claim against Lustra lodged by Juvenal Diaz, who rode sixth-place finisher Sir Leon.

          Teinowitz and his enormous entourage waited nervously in the winner`s circle while the stewards scrutinized films of the 1/4-mile race. Finally, their decision was announced: Lustra was disqualified, but Cryptoclearance was declared the winner of the Gold Cup for the second straight year.

          The demotion of Lustra to last in the seven-horse race cost Teinowitz the fourth-place purse of $30,573. But Cryptoclearance`s victory added $305,730 to his earnings.

          It was a conquest that came because of a tremendous stretch punch. Racing on a fast track, Cryptoclearance ran the final quarter in 23 2/5 seconds.

          “My horse has a tremendous kick at the end, and he likes this track,“

          said jockey Jose Santos. “The pace was very slow, and I was up a lot closer than usual. But I knew I`d have plenty of horse. I tested him by popping him on the shoulder with my whip, and I felt him respond. In the stretch, I showed him the stick and he ran very hard.“

          Striking from fifth, Cryptoclearance began his mighty move by circling his rivals leaving the three-eighths pole and took command on the outside of Proper Reality, who had a short-lived lead in the upper stretch.

          According to Bailey, “I had the position I hoped for going into the race, but after what happened, it turned out to be a bad spot. Proper Reality got bothered by Lustra on the clubhouse turn and again at the three-eighths pole.

          “In my opinion, Lustra was entered for the purpose of setting the pace to benefit Cryptoclearance. Lustra knocked my horse sideways twice. Those bumping incidents had to hurt him.“

          Lustra`s jockey, Antonio Graell, said there was no malice involved in his horse`s mischief, and that he was powerless to prevent it.

          “He was jumping all around the track, starting with when we passed the stands for the first time,“ said Graell. “He saw a shadow . . . and then jumped. From there on his ears were twitching and he was looking all around. Every shadow he saw he jumped.

          “Up at the three-eighths pole is when he jumped and ducked out the worst.“

          In the opinion of Diaz, Sir Leon got the worst of it. “I had a ton of horse, but then Lustra ducked out in front of me and my horse clipped heels,“ said Diaz. “The shoe on my horse`s left front foot was completely torn off.“ The only similarity between Saturday`s Gold Cup and last year`s running was the horse in the winner`s circle. Last year, the race was run on a damp, dreary afternoon and a mud-splattered Cryptoclearance won in a 10-length landslide.

      • turffan

        Ken’s claimer, Shining Copper for Big Blue Kitten, 3rd in the the Million & 20 lengths in front in the Turf comes to mind. I’d scratch War Story & let nyra take a hit at the windows.

        • turffan

          Guess I should’ve watched the video before bringing up Copper…haha

      • Mike Hummel

        I don’t know if I would call Siphon a rabbit in the Pacific Classic won by by Tinner’s Way, but Siphon softened up Cigar for Tinner’s Way’s big late kick. They made one heck of a tag team.

        • RayPaulick

          Dare And Go was the winner, but you are correct that the trainer, Richard Mandella, and more than one runner.

          • Mike Hummel

            I stand corrected. Good catch!

        • Flintstone

          Still remember that like it was yesterday. Also remember Siphon going wire-to-wire in to the Hollywood Gold Cup. Jockey looked like he was riding a motorcycle.

      • Michael Castellano

        I beg to differ. You may disagree, but I offered an intelligent opinion. It’s a matter of opinion, not simply right or wrong issue. You favor rabbits, I do not. I am well aware that rabbits occasionally win. Hedevar once held the mile dirt record, and they used him against Dr. Fager, made him run 1:09 and change in a mile and a quarter race. I see the permissible use of rabbits as a bias against front runners. I recall them rating Kelso a couple of times against a top front runner, and he lost. They switched strategy and had Kelso go out and run with the front runner. Kelso beat him fare and square. A horse that needs a rabbit has a weakness, just as a front runner has a weakness. Let them decide who is best horse to horse. Sometimes a field favors the speed, sometimes the closers, and sometimes neither. So be it. I’ll give you an example. I’m a small owner that lucks out winding up with a champion front running horse. He wins a BC win and your in race. A top closer owned by a billionaire enters a top sprinter to run my horse into the ground in the BC Classic race so his out of the clouds closer has a better shot to win. It may or may not work, but I just cannot see why you consider this “fair.” He’s in essence double teaming his opponent. It’s like a boxing match where one fighter has to fight 6 rounds with one fighter, and six with another. Your example doesn’t work for me, as the difference in a race without rabbits is that no wants to go so fast as to also defeat their own horse, whereas the purpose of the rabbit is often to force the fastest pace possible, even if it’s suicidal. Some horses have little early speed, which I consider a weakness. And close like the devil, which is their strength. And some front runners do not rate well when challenged, which is also a weakness. But we only see entries to help the former. I also am not a fan of allowing trainers to have multiple uncoupled entries in a race. Or of allowing owners to do likewise in Stakes, it gives them the opportunity to sacrifice one to help the other.

        • Tinky

          A horse that needs a rabbit has a weakness, just as a front runner has a weakness. Let them decide who is best horse to horse.

          Speed horses, and especially under American dirt racing conditions, enjoy a pronounced advantage in the majority of races, and races aren’t really decided fairly when there isn’t a true pace.

          Your example doesn’t work for me, as the difference in a race without rabbits is that no wants to go so fast as to also defeat their own horse, whereas the purpose of the rabbit is often to force the fastest pace possible, even if it’s suicidal.

          You are extrapolating incorrectly. When rabbits are used in the U.S., they are rarely employed intelligently, and there are certainly examples of idiots sending them to set as fast a pace as possible. But such tactics are ignorant, unless the primary foe is a faint-hearted front-runner, as any speed horse that is tractable will simply sit back off of the pace, along with the rest of the field.

          In Europe, where rabbits are typically employed intelligently, their job is simply to insure a true (i.e. honest) pace. That has the result of giving all of the horses in the race equal chances of showing their strengths and limitations, while preventing a speed horse from stealing the race.

          • Michael Castellano

            I am not familiar with European practices. I would assume that here in the states a rabbit is employed to tip the scales in favor of the closer, and not to make the race a “fair contest.”

        • Cuffdaddy

          Making comparisons to a boxing match where it is one boxer versus two opponents is where the the self proclaimed intelligent opinion left the building.

          There are always exceptions to overall outcomes to be found with regards to rabbits throughout history. In reality, the higher the class of the race the less effect a rabbit has, unless as Tinky stated “the primary foe is a faint-hearted front runner”

  • Larry sterne

    Horse was not entered to win. False signals for those who bet on him . Horses shud have to race against contenders not pretenders.

    • Jock Mcneil

      Your kidding your self if you think every horse is entered to win

      • Tom Davis

        They are not, but the owner or trainer doesn’t announce it to the world.

  • Jock Mcneil

    If he paid his. WAy into the race how can the Stewart be a judge of a horse’s talent?? They just say who is good enough and who is. Not?

  • TimTamTed

    Why would the stewards suddenly change the “rabbit” entry in a horserace ? Rabbits have been a part of American thoroughbred horseracing from day one.It almost reads like an umpire saying you can’t intentionally walk a batter,that somehow it’s unfair.The question is,who is it unfair to ? I’m guessing it’s more personal (trainer) than anything else.Otherwise,it takes some of the luster off the saying,”that’s why they run the race.”

    • Michael Banis

      Actually, it comes up every now and then to get rid of the intentional walk.

      • TimTamTed

        I’ve known baseball for many years.They did change the fact that the pitcher doesn’t have to throw a pitch…the dugout tells the ump,and the batter goes to first.It’s something that isn’t going to change anytime soon,though.Even if they did,it wouldn’t be against one particular team,it would be a league rule,for every single team.Which is my point.

  • Richard C

    It may not be anti-rabbit as much as preventing a mockery of a major stakes race. Recently, Ron Paolucci has been concocting ridiculous “game plans” with over-classed rabbits and multiple pace strategies (Ohio Derby 2017) like a lousy high school football head coach who believes the mounting 50-0 defeats are all about the players…….and not about the strategizing pulled out of last call at a dumpy sports bar.

  • David Worley

    Re rabbits: I’m with Scott on this one. It all depends on context. You should have to be qualified to run in a graded stakes race. The consequences of an unqualified horse running could be catastrophic for other horses and riders.

    • Michael Banis

      If you live your life by “it could happen” you would never leave the house.

  • Andrew A.

    If they’re gonna run an totally outclassed sprinter as a “rabbit” the only way for it to have an effect would be to get right on Gun Runner’s throat and go head and head for the first 4 furlongs and force him wide into the first turn. Opening up a couple lengths on him to insure a fast pace is nuts with the gelding they wanted to enter. And it actually helps Gun Runner IMO. It’s a slippery slope but in this case they did the right thing IMO.

  • john davies

    You really cannot compare Europe with the USA on this, or specifically the UK, in the UK the Rabbit as called over here is a individual betting entity, so you can have Aidan O having the Chalk and a 40/1 shot of his wins, in the US if an owner puts a rabbit in its coupled with their top runner so no conflict. As for dangerous backing up in the race that’s up to the skill of the jockey and if the stewards feel that the rabbits actions cost other runners their chances surely they have the power to correct it, on a race to race basis.

  • Tom Davis

    Ray, I agree with the stewards because the owner of May B verbally announced that his horse will be entered ONLY to be a rabbit. Consequently, what he is really saying is that his horse is not being entered to win and he will not win. Of course there have been rabbits in the past, but the owner or trainer never opened his big mouth and announced this to the whole world. A handicapper can spot a rabbit but the occasional race track goer cannot. This is a slippery slope because owners with no rabbit in a race might be barking out “my horse will not win”, or “my horse doesn’t have a chance”, or “don’t bet my horse today”, etc, etc. Then before you know it, these kinds of comments will be heard on national TV. The stewards are stopping this before it gets out of hand. Plus I agree with Scott’s reasoning.

  • Ron Micetic

    They took the entry fee for the horse. Seems incredulous to me they subjectively now refuse to let him run. Rabbits have always been part of racing Exterminator started as a rabbit. If rabbits were banned the consensus GOAT would be Dr. Fager

  • Les Instone

    A rabbit has been allowed previously as long as it doesnt exclude the entry of another runner owned by someone else.

  • Mike Magnus

    if the horse is just in there with no shot other than act as a rabbit the bettor has no shot of winning on the horse so great they did there job to protect the bettor or run it as a entry

    • Michael Banis

      But almost all rabbits might qualify for a show or perfecta bet. Always Dreaming is bred as a rabbit, a very good one. To me he had proven in Gr 1 company at over 1 1/8 he would fade after setting or pushing the pace, it is obvious, and the Travers proved it. That is why we are not likely to see him again, to win he has to run at shorter distances. If he continues to run over a mile he loses, and a mile and under wins, either one decreases his value as a stud. So we will liely never see him race again.

    • OopsyDaisy3

      There is nothing written in stone that says a rabbit won’t win!!!!

  • theosmachine

    I must call a foul on the steward. Rabbits have been used in Grade 1 races for decades.

  • lastromantribune

    have to side with the owner on this one. stewards are kotowing to the few idiots outside of the SPA on race days protesting…..chicken chits…………

  • lastromantribune

    horse should have been allowed to run as a coupled entry.

  • McGov

    Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids ;)
    So, the owner was HONEST. No tricks. ” I’m entering a rabbit” he tells the stewards…..” uhh, no, you’re not”, say the stewards……’ we won’t have those kind of honest tactics here mister!’
    Gotta be kidding me. As I said before, I’ve NEVER heard of anything like this. I cannot believe the stewards are not allowing this entry. Control it, yes….couple them up.
    But this??? YOU embarrass yourselves with this absurdity. Imagine you have literally told an owner he cannot run the horse because he was honest with you…..cause we sure as heck know rabbits are everywhere in racing since the beginning of racing.
    If an owner feels so compelled to run two horses to benefit one….have at er.

    • Michael Banis

      I am disappointed they don’t run multiple horses with the same trainer as one entry anymore. The trainer and everyone in the barn knows which horse will beat the other, the bettors and fans get fleeced because of not running trainer entries.
      It also means it is harder for young competent trainers to get horses, as owners flock to a few “corporations” like Baffet etc.

  • SteveD

    Should rabbits be excluded? No.
    Should horses like Cautious Giant and May B, be excluded? Yes.
    Those are separate issues, to say the least.
    And who in their right mind would think running a 45 opening half in front of Gun Runner would put him at a disadvantage??

    • This. Thumbs up.

      • SteveD

        Thanks Scott.
        I thought the two videos you showed (Flinshire & CG) were perfect examples of why these horses should be excluded.

  • Michael Banis

    There are many horses that enter races with little hope of winning, they race for the other prize money, and may just surprize once in a while. If this was not the case, in the Woodward the only owner running a horse would be the one owning Gunrunner.

  • Jack Frazier

    In this instance the stewards were wrong overstepping their bounds in not allowing this horse to be entered. With the three horse entry rule in California, a trainer with a large stable can dictate the race by having a speed horse, a horse that closes a bit and takes over for the rabbit and the closer. Is this fair? Mo but that is way it is.they can also split their entries as well so they are not coupled. Probably not but with the shortage of horses and stakes racing being run with four, five or six horses, it is the reality of racing here. In my opinion it is wrong to have big purses with limited entries in any stake race which brings to question how important is ranking G1, G2 or G3 races which really does not mean anything if the horses don’t have to outrun more than three or four horses?

    What this does is water down the stakes races and their results are questionable. Stewards are supposed to be objective not subjective and leave the racing on the track not in the stewards perch. They were wrong.

  • Dave Stevenson

    Then they might as well eliminate maidens from stakes events as well. This conduct tinkers with altering the conditions of a race. The race should be determined on the racing surface not in someone’s opinion.
    The practice of rabbits in stakes events (and overnight races) is routine in the 500 year history of British racing to keep the pace (honest). Let’s stick to the rule book and “scratch” innuendo!

  • Quinnbt

    I vote for a wabbits only wace. :) You can’t wun Gun Wunner.

  • Transport

    Yes, the argument of a horse causing some incident is so hollow. An owner has every right to enter his horse where he sees fit. The rider of a ‘rabbit’ usually just takes hold when he’s accomplished his task and the others go around. It’s the other riders job to avoid traffic or trouble as it is in every race. It’s been part of the game forever.

  • Al Milano

    Interesting question, which Scott answers with references to ‘qualifying’ for a race. I respect his point of view in this instance, but apart from the Derby and Breeders Cup races I am repelled by the idea that horses need to qualify for stakes races. I am sure if we did the research we would find that completely unqualified horses (depending upon the rules) have won countless upsets over the history of racing. That’s what makes the game. That’s part of what makes for long shots, which I depend upon in my betting. You start qualifying and you can expect a parade of favorites, in which case I am out of the game.

    As for the 3yo crop, they seem about the same as we’ve come to see in recent years. There’s no Arrogate, but then there was no Arrogate in the Triple Crown races last year. Still, he emerged from his crop as a true top level runner. Maybe West Coast is the same type of horse. Maybe not, but their tendency to beat one another this year has more to do with how they were trained and pointed for races rather than their quality. Think about it. Always Dreaming pointed for the Derby above anything else and he tops out in that race. Cloud Computing held back for the Preakness and then he tops out there. Tapwrit smartly held aside and trained up to the Belmont and now he’s on a downward slope. If West Coast tanks next, I think we have to take another look at Gunnevera, who got back to top form after running in just about everything.

  • Matthew Fitch

    I’m late to the party on this thread, but I think the stewards got this right for the betting public. If the entry is to be uncoupled, and they are publicly stating they are not running to win, how can you allow the horse to run and be wagered on? It would not have even been buyer beware. They did not intend to have the jockey ride to maximize chances. The sole assignment was to make it harder for the favorite. Now, if the rabbit had been coupled in the wagering, that is an entirely different story. If this had been an allowance race in New York, they would have been, by rule, coupled in the wagering. The whole split entry issue is another symptom of the larger problem. Too few top-level owners. Trainer consolidation is another problem, though not the issue here. Playing a turf stakes in New York with four of eight runners trained by Chad Brown is not compelling. This is not just US racing; Europe has the same problem.

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