New York State Racing and Wagering Board chief steward Carmine Donofrio has begun serving a 10-day suspension without pay for his role in an Aug. 13 incident at Saratoga when wagering was mistakenly closed about five minutes early for the day's ninth race, the Coronation Cup, causing horseplayers on-track and at simulcast locations throughout the country to be shut out.
A source at the State Racing and Wagering Board said Donofrio began serving the suspension earlier this week.
Daily Racing Form reported at the time of the incident that Donofrio said he walked into the stewards' room where there was a bank of television monitors, saw a field of horses breaking from the starting gate that he believed to be Saratoga, and quickly pushed the stop-wagering button. There is no easy or fast way to reverse the stop-wagering process, the SRWB told the Paulick Report.
According to an SRWB report on the incident obtained by the Paulick Report, a technical glitch with the New York Racing Association closed-circuit television feed or a communication failure with the television department likely contributed to Donofrio's mistake. According to John Imbriale, director of NYRA TV, late in the Belmont Park meeting and early in the Saratoga meeting, there were at least three occasions when TV crew personnel were either copying races or doing “real-time maintenance,” and the work they were doing apparently was visible in the NYRA stewards stand. In those instances, according to the report, stewards are supposed to be notified so that there is no possibility of them mistaking “a formatting sequence of a prior race with a race yet to be run.” Imbriale said the TV operators had “forgotten to inform the stewards, and that procedures had been written and posted so that this would not happen again.”
The report concludes that NYRA TV operators “need to be retrained to stay within the standard operating procedures for race-day programming. They also should stay in close contact with the stewards, letting them know when an unusual incident occurs that could affect the next race or races in that program.”
Imbriale notified the SRWB on Nov. 8 that computer router software has been redesigned with a “failsafe” that “does not allow any races other than the NYRA race at hand to be shown in the stewards stand unless authorized by the stewards for good reason.”
The error enraged horseplayers trying to make a bet on the race and resulted in significantly decreased wagering, which cut revenue to the New York Racing Association, New York horsemen, the state of New York, and tracks and horsemen at simulcast locations. Win-place-show bets on the race totaled $243,978. The previous Monday, the equivalent race handled $316,204 in WPS wagers, and the following week, Aug. 20, a total of $395,157 was wagered on Saratoga's ninth race on a 10-race program.
Other wagering pools on that race, including exactas and trifectas, also saw reductions from the previous and following week's corresponding race.
The New York State Racing Wagering Board conducted the investigation and ruled on Donofrio.
In October, Donofrio mistakenly scratched Belle of the Hall from the Lady Valor Stakes at Belmont. She was allowed to run for purse money only after the mistake was discovered. Though there was no wagering on her, Belle of the Hall won the race.
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