Comma To The Top won a very soggy renewing of the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, but not without a boatload of drama. In what ended up being a half-hour delay, Comma had a shoe issue that turned into an absolute debacle. First, the farrier did not have the right tool, so he had to go back and get it. Then, once he had the right tool and started to work on Comma, he was stepped on and was injured. A second farrier then had to be summoned to finish the job. The entire time this is happening, a steady rain was falling. All of the other horses in the field had been either standing or walking around the entire time, along with all the connections. (see photo) Now, the question has to be asked, why did they not scratch Comma To The Top, especially after the first farrier went down? My thoughts on why the stewards did not scratch him is:
- The horse was the morning line and current favorite in a Grade 1 race: I would imagine that stewards would try to avoid at all cost to scratch a favorite in this magnitude of a race. Not only would it bring some bad press to the track, it would severely affect handle on the race and the multi-race exotics on what is technically the marquee race of the meet.
- The delay was not the horse's fault: As explained above, the series of circumstances (wrong tools, the farrier getting injured, 2nd farrier needed) all were such long odds to happen one after the other in quick succession that there was no "clean break" point to scratch the horse. It was already at least 17 minutes into the delay when the second farrier had to be called, so the stewards were committed to see out the shoe repair.
- Carry Gulch: Who? Carry Gulch was a Peter Miller trained horse (as is Comma To The Top) who was injured during the running of the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap back in June. Miller was incensed over how little time the field was given (3 minutes) to warm-up before the race. He was seething and mumbling to himself in the paddock while saddling his charge for the race after the Whittingham, and rightfully so. While Carry Gulch did survive his injuries, he will never race again. Now, while I'm not saying that the stewards were deliberately showing favoritism towards Miller, it may have been in the back of their mind when they decided not scratch the horse after the delay had gone on for some time. The coincidence that both wore the #10 saddle cloth in their respective races maybe was a fortuitous one, as it may have jogged the memory of what happened that day in June. (It did for me)