Arizona Department of Racing officials are investigating how two runners from the barn of trainer Dan McFarlane erroneously ran in each other's name in Saturday's seventh race at Turf Paradise.
Cavour, carrying saddle cloth 5, was credited with the victory at odds of 29-1 in the $15,000 mile and a half starter stakes on the turf, but when the horse was identified at the test barn, his lip tattoo matched Sir Searsucker. The No. 7 saddle cloth was assigned to Sir Searsucker, but it was actually Cavour who carried that number to a last-place finish of nine runners.
Cavour was 15-1 on the morning line while the more accomplished Sir Searsucker was 6-1 and went off at 7-1.
Sir Searsucker was coming off a win in an $8,000 starter allowance in his first start for trainer Dan McFarlane, who claimed the Kentucky-bred son of Shakespeare for $6,250 on Feb. 21. Cavour, owned by Filippo Santoro and trained by McFarlane, had lost eight in a row.
The grooms that brought the two horses to the paddock from the McFarlane barn were wearing the incorrect numbered vests, according to McFarlane, and horse identifier Lymon Perren, an employee of the Arizona Department of Racing, failed to catch the error when he checked the lip tattoos of each horse.
“The identifier missed it,” McFarlane said. “He obviously wasn't doing his job. He should have caught this in the paddock.”
Perren wasn't the only one who didn't know that Cavour was really Sir Searsucker and Sir Searsucker was really Cavour. Jockeys Skyler White Shield (who'd ridden Cavour in his two most recent starts) and Chris Russell (who'd ridden Sir Searsucker in his last six starts) didn't notice they were on the wrong horses.
“They both wear shadow rolls and look alike, though one has white on his left hind and the other on the right hind,” said McFarlane.
It wasn't until McFarlane saw the win photo shortly after the race that he realized it was Sir Searsucker, not Cavour, who was the actual winner.
“As soon as I got the win photo, I knew it was the wrong horse,” he said.
Test barn personnel also realized the winning horse was actually Sir Searsucker. By then, however, the race was declared official and it was too late for the bettors who wagered on Sir Seersucker.
A total of $51,084 was bet in the win-place-show pools on that race. By comparison, the day's other WPS pools were: $14,649, $28,153, $36,349, $18,879, $24,850, $27,247 and $37,748.
McFarlane said he was interviewed extensively by ADOR officials about the mix-up, saying he did not bet on the race.
“It's my fault because of the trainer responsibility rule, but the identifier is supposed to catch that,” he said.
Greg Stiles, public information officer for the Arizona Department of Racing, confirmed the investigation of the two McFarlane horses running under the wrong name. He issued the following comment in response to questions from the Paulick Report:
“An Arizona Department of Racing employee notified the stewards immediately following the race when the winning horse was presented at the test barn. Until the investigation by the stewards is completed, the Arizona Department of Racing will not be commenting directly on the matter.
“The investigation is ongoing and will be thorough. Every person who in any way had contact with the two horses in question from the backside to the paddock will be interviewed. We are looking into any unusual wagering patterns on the race, but preliminary indications are there were none. All purses have been withheld pending the final investigation.
“The Arizona Department of Racing views this matter as a serious issue, and will take appropriate action based on the facts of the investigation.”
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