a rabbit, the Woodward, and a simple solution left unused

Twitter was abuzz about rabbits leading into the Whitney, when Cautious Giant and War Story were not coupled.  The move not to couple that pair left a lot of people scratching their heads, and the race went about as many expected — Cautious Giant gunned it to the lead, and War Story ran late.  About the only surprise in that race was the souvenir Cautious Giant gave eventual victor Gun Runner as he faded out of contention.

A month has passed, and the Internet once again buzzes with rabbit talk, focusing on Loooch Racing and War Story.  This time?  War Story was coming with a different rabbit, May B.  Racing officials refused to take May B’s entry in the Woodward.

Was May B going to be a long shot in the Woodward?  Sure he was.  But, his racing lines indicated that he was in good form, likely fit to run.  May B won a $12,500 starter allowance sprint two back at Los Al, and returned to hold second in an open $35,000-$40,000 turf dash at Del Mar.

Sure, May B was far more likely to win that allowance at Thistledown from which he scratched today than the Woodward, but it’s not the stewards’ place to decide that a horse is outclassed in a certain spot.  If that were the case, after all, they surely would have been able to pull the plug on Ricks Natural Star’s entry into the Breeders’ Cup Turf all those years ago.  Assuming his connections made all the proper stakes payments, nothing in the conditions barred May B from entering the Woodward, and he was nominated for the race.

Officials had a simple solution at their disposal: couple May B and War Story.

In stakes races worth over $50,000 in New York, racing officials have the choice to allow uncoupled same-owner entries, or to require that those entries be coupled if they find that doing so is necessary to the public interest.  The entries of both War Story and May B in the Woodward would tell a clear story to any reasonably seasoned handicapper: they’re both owned by the same entity, one is a come-from-behind horse with graded stakes form, and the other is a front-running sprinter stretching out and taking a large hike in class.  It’s a classic rabbit scenario.  But, for someone newer to racing, coupling that entry would make it beyond obvious that May B would be in to make pace for War Story.  Problem solved.

The only scenario in which it serves anyone’s interest to bar May B from entering the Woodward would be if there were so many other entries for the race that allowing May B in would keep out a horse owned and trained by someone else.  In that case, it makes perfect sense for the rabbit to be the first horse excluded — even though rule 4025.10(c) covers trainers, not owners, there is an argument to be made that making a same-owner-different-trainer rabbit would serve the spirit of that rule, in the sense of giving as many parties as possible a chance to contest the race.

But, since not every spot in that Woodward Stakes starting gate was spoken for?  May B should have been allowed in, as a coupled entry with War Story.

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