When Official Results Aren’t Official: Delta Downs Judges Misread Photo Finish

by | 03.05.2019 | 2:36pm

There was a “Boo Boo” in the first race at Delta Downs last Saturday night and we're not talking about Kerwin Clark, the 58-year-old jockey who's been saddled with that nickname since childhood.

Clark posed for pictures aboard New Orleans Spice, the No. 9 horse, with trainer James Ludwig and owner David Morales after the five-furlong race at the Vinton, La., track had been declared official by the stewards. The Equibase chart published a short time later had New Orleans Spice as the winner by a nose over Mi Copa Rebosa. The footnotes stated that the mare by Good and Tough was “forwardly placed from the start, moved up to challenge off the inside into the turn, long duel to the wire, narrowly gained the nod.”

But officials who read the photo finish image of the race made a boo boo. It was actually No. 10, Mi Copa Rebosa's nose, on the line first.

Mirror image of photo finish shows No. 10 (Mi Copa Rebosa) as the winner

Sometime after the second race had been run, stewards were made aware of the mistake. A total of $58,885 had been bet in the win, place and show pool and even more in exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers. Officials delayed the start of the third race while deliberating over what to do.

Finally, a message appeared on the track's simulcast feed: “Attention Race Fans: All wagers on #9 and #10 in Race 1 will be honored and paid out at Delta Downs tonight- Saturday, March 2, 2019.”  The Equibase chart also was amended.

Trainer Ludwig was at the test barn with New Orleans Spice when a steward called him with the news. He was stunned.

“I'm jumping for joy that I won,” Ludwig said. “I get called an hour later and I'm told, 'We put you second.' I got a little abrupt with him. The steward said I'll put a fine on you if you don't shut your mouth. The stewards threatened to fine me? They had ample time to look at that photo. It's rotten. It don't smell right. The other horse never did go to the test barn, so he got a free ride.”

Making matters worse, Ludwig said, Clark told him he would have claimed foul against Tim Thornton, the rider of Mi Copa Rebosa, if the photo finish had gone the other way.

“He tells me, 'The horse was laying on me the whole way. If they didn't put my number up, I'm claiming foul,'” Ludwig said of Clark.

The head-on replay shows that the two horses were shoulder to shoulder down the stretch, with Mi Copa Rebosa appearing to come out into New Orleans Spice just before the wire. Was it enough to merit a disqualification? Ludwig said he has appealed to the racing commission.

“I've been training horses for 40 years, and I've never seen anything like this,” Ludwig said. “I can't even get Delta Downs to call me back.”

Stewards and Delta Downs officials could not be reached for comment. The Louisiana State Racing Commission did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Orange Grove Thoroughbreds, owner of Mi Copa Rebosa, gets to keep the $20,400 winner's share of the $34,000 purse. Morales gets $6,800 for second.

Ludwig ordered five winner's circle pictures for what he thought was his first win since February 2018, when New Orleans Spice won an allowance race at Delta Downs.

A similar situation occurred in 2016 when officials at Delaware Park said an optical illusion caused them to misread and reverse the order in a photo finish for second place. In that case, however, because Delaware rules state that the official results posted are final, purse money and wagers were paid to the incorrect second-place finishers. Track officials also paid out on wagers made on the horse mistakenly placed third.

Winner's circle picture of New Orleans Spice. An hour later he was declared the second-place finisher.

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