Modern Games Crosses Juvenile Turf Wire In Front, Greeted By Chorus Of Boos After Wagering Kerfuffle - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Modern Games Crosses Juvenile Turf Wire In Front, Greeted By Chorus Of Boos After Wagering Kerfuffle

Modern Games with trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick following the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

The Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf may have followed the centerpiece Juvenile on the Del Mar card, but it provided more than enough drama to cap off the first day of the 2021 Breeders' Cup. Modern Games (IRE) was the winner of the race while running for purse money only, while Tiz The Bomb was the winner for parimutuel wagering purposes, a confusing situation which set off frustration from the gathered California crowd.

The full field of 14 had loaded into the gate uneventfully and was waiting for the start when Modern Games grew restless and reared in the one gate, triggering stablemate Albahr (GB) to spook, rear, and fall onto the turf under the gate. Jockey Frankie Dettori, aboard Albahr, managed to extricate himself from the gate without being hurt, as the 2-year-old Charlie Appleby trainee thrashed on the ground. Around the same time, stablemate Modern Games (IRE) under William Buick came out of the adjacent gate. Buick later said that an assistant starter had opened the gate to allow him to escape any injury from Albahr, but that he wasn't sure how many people realized in the moment that his horse had been let out, rather than breaking through the gate.

An unidentified assistant starter was given medical attention for injuries sustained in the incident, according to TVG broadcasters. California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) officials were unable to provide an update on that assistant starter late Friday, or his/her name.

The horses were unloaded and Albahr was extricated from the gate, and Appleby later said the horse seemed to have escaped with minor cuts. While the horses were walking behind the gates awaiting reloading, the public was told Albahr and Modern Games were scratched. Then, an announcement came that Modern Games would run for purse money only.

CHRB officials later explained that two veterinarians standing behind the gate — Dr. Dana Stead and Dr. Chuck Jenkins — saw Modern Games rear and thought the horse hit the back of the gate, and that they believed he subsequently broke through the front gates.

Dr. Jeff Blea, equine medical director for the CHRB, explained that a horse breaking through a gate which has not been opened for the horse can result in a shoulder fracture that may not be detected until the horse began galloping. Such an injury could prove fatal.

CHRB executive director Scott Chaney said that veterinarians radioed to the stewards that Modern Games would be a scratch before the horse had been brought back around behind the gate. The scratch was announced and the horse was taken out of the wagering pools for around four minutes before veterinarians examined Modern Games and spoke with Buick. They concluded the horse had not broken the front gates and was in a fit state to race.

California Horse Racing Board rule 1974(B) states that “if a horse removed from the wagering pool due to a totalizator error or due to any other error, and neither the trainer nor the owner is at fault, the horse shall start in the race as a non-wagering interest for the purse money only and shall be disregarded for pari-mutuel purposes.”

At that point, the stewards could have left the horse scratched, or they could have allowed it to run for purse money only. Chaney said he did not think they could have put the horse back into the pools once it had been out for several minutes.

The stewards later released the following statement about the incident:

Prior to the start of the race, #1 Modern Games (IRE) reared up and hit the back of the gate; #2 Albahr (GB) flipped over and became lodged underneath the starting gate. The scratch of #2 Albahr was relayed to the stewards and that horse was taken out of the wagering pools. Albahr appears uninjured. The veterinary staff then relayed a second scratch of #1 Modern Games (IRE) to the stewards based on initial observation. Upon confirmation that #1 also was to be scratched, the stewards removed the horse from the wagering pools. After further discussion among the regulatory veterinarians at the gate and after further observation of #1 Modern Games, that horse was declared fit and racing sound, and this fact was relayed to the stewards, who pursuant to CHRB rule 1974 allowed the horse to run for purse money only. The CHRB and the Breeders' Cup are reviewing the current veterinary and scratching procedures to ensure that this does not occur going forward.

There is no rule in California requiring that a horse who breaks through a gate is an automatic scratch; rather, that decision is left up to the official veterinarian on the ground.

Buick said later he was unaware his horse ever had been scratched, because he knew the horse had not been injured in the incident. He was asked by veterinarians on the ground what had happened, and after he explained that he was let out of the gate by the starter, his horse was examined and he was reloaded.

“Usually horses get backed out the back of gate and everyone gets reorganized and goes again,” Buick said afterwards. “The stall handler there, he obviously meant well and tried to do the right thing, but he opened the front gate without anyone being ready for it and my horse did what he's taught to do and jumps out. Fortunately he got my message and we pulled up and went around the back. To be honest I was unaware of the situation. The vet team wanted to know what happened, I told them what happened and the guy who opened my gate told them thankfully exactly what he did and what happened there. They had all the information. Maybe there was a bit of confusion and panic back there.”

The horses were reloaded into the gates, and Modern Games sat fifth or sixth early leaders Coinage and Portfolio Company, who set the early pace through the backstretch. Grafton Street was sent after them at the top of the stretch, but Modern Games swung wide and found an extra gear in mid-stretch, drawing clear by 1 1/2 lengths at the wire.

Tiz The Bomb crossed the wire behind Modern Games, with Mackinnon and Grafton Street following. Due to Modern Games' status as “purse money only,” bettors were paid as though Tiz The Bomb had won the race: he returned $17.60, $7.40, and $5.20.

Modern Games returned to the Del Mar grandstand to a loud and persistent wave of boos from 20,536 race attendees who were upset about the wagering situation, creating a strange reception for Buick, Appleby, and Godolphin, who were awarded the trophy.

Modern Games came to the Breeders' Cup off a win in the G3 Sommerville Stakes at Newmarket on Sept. 23, having previously won the Take The Reins Handicap two weeks earlier. He is a 2-year-old son of Dubawi (IRE) out of New Approach (IRE) mare Modern Ideals (GB). He was bred in Ireland by the owner.

The race gave Appleby his fourth Breeders' Cup win. He won the same race in 2018 with Line of Duty.

Horseplayers expressed outrage and confusion at the mix-up online. Chaney attributed the sequence of events, in part, to the fact the race was the last of the day and already had an 18-minute delay as officials waited for the injured assistant starter to be transported by ambulance and for another ambulance to come onto the course to chase the field. The sun was setting by the time the race went off at 5:48 p.m. local time.

Additionally, Chaney pointed out, the current climate with regard to animal welfare probably had veterinarians and officials eager to take every precaution to prevent any kind of equine injury.

“This might be an example of trying too hard,” said Chaney at a press conference Friday night.

Breeders' Cup released the following statement about the incident:

“Breeders' Cup races are subject to CHRB rules, including Rule 1974 B which states: “If a horse is removed from the wagering pool due to a totalizator error, or due to any other error, and neither the trainer nor the owner is at fault, the horse shall start in the race as a non-wagering interest for the purse only and shall be disregarded for pari-mutuel purposes.

The decisions leading up to today's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf were made under the authority of the CHRB. Please refer to the advisory put out by the CHRB earlier this evening for additional details and direct any further questions directly to them.

We thank the CHRB for their thorough review of this situation, and we regret the impact this has had on the betting public.

The health and safety of our equine and human athletes is our top priority and we are thankful for the safety of all involved.”

Paulick Report Icon

Receive daily headlines, breaking news alerts, promotions, and much more!

Become An Insider

Support our journalism and access bonus content on our Patreon stream

Learn More