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Stewards should have let CashCall result stand

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Race Replay: CashCall Futurity (9:35)

Bob Baffert's McKinzie gets the win after stablemate Solomini was disqualified in the Grade 1, $300,000 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity on December 9, 2017. (9:35)

If required, I, and a lot of other folks I'm sure, could make a compelling case in defense of the majority (NOT unanimous) stewards' decision to disqualify Solomini from first in Saturday's Grade 1 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity and place him third for coming in slightly in the stretch and bumping Instilled Regard, who was third under the wire.

Instilled Regard missed second money by just a head to McKinzie. Considering how narrow that margin is, it's not a big stretch to suggest the bumping incident cost Instilled Regard a larger piece of the purse. If Solomini had won as much the best, it would have lent a different dimension to the matter and made him much more difficult to take down. But he didn't. Solomini prevailed by only three-quarters of a length, so the fairest thing to do, it could be argued, was to do exactly what two of the three Los Alamitos stewards thought was right, and disqualify Solomini.

Or, a strong case could be made that Solomini and McKinzie both should have been disqualified. Solomini wasn't the only one who didn't keep a perfectly straight course in the CashCall stretch run. McKinzie came out a bit, too, and contributed toward putting Instilled Regard in tight. If Solomini's actions cost Instilled Regard a bigger piece of the purse, it sure appeared that McKinzie's actions did, too, and he should have been held as culpable as Solomini.

Or, I could argue all day that there should have been no disqualification at all in the CashCall. Before any brief, light, stretch bumping took place -- bumping that never appeared to knock Instilled Regard off stride or meaningfully cause his jockey to stop riding -- Instilled Regard poked his nose in front of McKinzie. But McKinzie quickly fought back to regain a narrow advantage on Instilled Regard, an advantage that, even if narrow, seemed completely secure.

In fact, I would suggest that even if they went around the track 20 more times, McKinzie was never going to relinquish his slim edge back to Instilled Regard, because that's exactly how it looked. And we haven't even touched on the polarizing issue among horseplayers of placing a horse first via disqualification who wasn't good enough to win, and who wasn't the aggrieved party in any potential infraction. In this instance, that was McKinzie. To a tee. He paid $3 to win.

This was not an easy call for the Los Alamitos stewards. That said, I personally don't agree with the call they made. Was Instilled Regard bumped a sixteenth out in the CashCall? Yes. Did it cost him a larger piece of the purse? I am not at all convinced it did, despite the narrow margin Instilled Regard was beaten for second. I would have let the result stand. Then again, New York is my home circuit, where you have to pull a machete and draw buckets of blood before you get disqualified.

* Somewhat lost in the controversy of a Grade 1 race like the CashCall being decided in the stewards stand is the discussion of the relative merits of the race. McKinzie was very likely the most impressive 2-year-old debut winner in North America this year, while Solomini turned in a very good effort in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, gamely holding second behind Good Magic, but over Bolt d'Oro, despite drifting in to the dead rail in the stretch. These two should have ensured the CashCall was a strongly run race. But I'm not so sure it was.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison between the CashCall and the Grade 1 Starlet, run right after the CashCall at the same 1 1/16-mile distance and won impressively by Dream Tree, because the paces were so disparate. The interior fractions of the CashCall were 46.70 seconds to the half and 1:10.64 for three quarters compared to corresponding splits in the paceless Starlet of 49.25 and 1:13.28. The CashCall's final time was 1:42.57, while the Starlet's was 1:43.87. They went so slow early in the Starlet that completely closing the time gap was just about impossible.
Nevertheless, there is this: There was a 2.55 second difference between the half-mile fractions of the CashCall and Starlet, and a 2.64 second difference in the three-quarter splits. But there was only a 1.37 second difference in the final times. Dream Tree did look good running right through the wire of the Starlet, but I'm underwhelmed right now at how the CashCall crew came home.

* Before the CashCall, Solomini was 30-1 and McKinzie was 20-1 in the latest Kentucky Derby future book odds released by the sharp folks at the Race and Sports Book at Wynn Las Vegas. I wouldn't expect their odds to move a lot after the CashCall, but I would guess the 125-1 that could have been had on Instilled Regard before Saturday was nowhere to be found on Sunday morning.

Wynn's first two favorites for the Derby -- don't forget, Wynn's odds are a function of money actually wagered so far and how much exposure they are willing to take -- are Bolt d'Oro, winner of the FrontRunner and Del Mar Futurity, and third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, at 12-1, and Good Magic, emphatic winner of the Juvenile, at 14-1.

Enticed, winner of a slow Kentucky Jockey Club, was a surprisingly low 20-1 along with McKinzie, while Montauk, arguably New York's most impressive 2-year-old debut winner this year, is 22-1.

Catholic Boy, winner of the Remsen in his first start on dirt, and Tiz Mischief, beaten a head when second in the Kentucky Jockey Club, were both 30-1, along with Solomini.

Sporting Chance, winner of the Hopeful, and St Patrick's Day, a maiden winner at Del Mar in his second start, were both 40-1, while Avery Island, winner of the Nashua before finishing second in the Remsen, and Principe Guilherme, an impressive first out winner last month at Churchill, were both 45-1.

Wynn has seven pegged at 50-1: Dak Attack, winner of the Ellis Park Juvenile; Engage, winner of the Futurity at Belmont; Free Drop Billy, winner of the Breeders' Futurity, but a distant ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; Mendelssohn, the Ireland-based half-brother to Beholder who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf; Promises Fulfilled, third in the Kentucky Jockey Club; Runaway Ghost, winner of the Golden Nugget at Golden Gate; and Untamed Domain, winner of the Summer and second in the Juvenile Turf.

A few who I thought were appealing prices were Analyze It, who has been strictly turf so far, but who is a total running fool, 100-1; Greyvitos, winner of the Bob Hope, 175-1; and Shivermetimbers and Peace, first and second in a strong maiden route at Del Mar, 175-1 and 150-1, respectively.