By Mike Farrell
The racing Twitter-verse is ablaze with support for Cameron Beatty after he was handed a suspension for the balance of the year by Monmouth Park.
His heinous crime? Entering the winner’s circle after Horologist won the Molly Pitcher Stakes (G3) on the Haskell (G1) undercard.
From California, Jenine Sahadi took to Twitter to slam the suspension as “Just absurd. I can only hope this is a joke. But I fear it’s not.”
It’s a coast-to-coast uproar. To put the affair in clearer focus, let’s offer some background and some perspective.
Yes, Beatty did break the Monmouth rules that currently bar owners from the paddock and the winner’s circle. We’ll circle back to the particulars later.
Monmouth, unlike tracks such as Saratoga, Del Mar and Gulfstream, can allow a limited number of fans provided they complete a health questionnaire, submit to a temperature check, wear a face mask and practice social distancing.
In the course of 40 years covering New Jersey racing, I have enjoyed many pleasant afternoons at Monmouth as either a reporter, a partner in a one-horse stable or as a fan enjoying a day at the races.
I have not attended a race at Monmouth or The Meadowlands since the tracks reopened under the current coronavirus protocols. Wearing a mask for four to five hours on a hot summer afternoon strikes me as more torture than pleasure, especially when the full pari-mutuel experience is available on your laptop computer complete with high-definition video and audio.
I salute those who crave the live experience, and are willing to follow the rules.
The New Jersey racetracks are walking a very narrow line with respect to allowing fans. They submitted detailed safety protocols to Gov. Phil Murphy before getting clearance to reopen the admission gates.
Some of the protocols covered horse owners, and were quite restrictive. On one hand, it is cruel and usual punishment to bar the owners who most directly support the sport by breeding, purchasing and paying to train the equine athletes who put on the show.
On the other hand, it’s understandable. The growth of racing syndicates that sell fractional shares in racehorses complicates the ownership issue. One horse can have 10 or more owners. If they all decided to crowd the winner’s circle after a victory, social distancing would go out the window. So would the masks. Who wants a commemorative photo with everyone covered like a bank robber?
The New Jersey tracks are in a ticklish situation. They have to keep the powers in Trenton happy. If the governor woke up on the wrong side of bed one morning, he could shut everything back down in a heartbeat.
Which brings us to the Molly Pitcher, won by Horologist. Beatty is a co-owner of the 4-year-old New Jersey-bred filly trained by Bill Mott who was not present for the race. Nor were any of his assistants.
A local trainer handled the saddling. With no one on hand to “represent” the horse, Beatty jumped in and led the horse into the winner’s circle.
And in so doing, Beatty crossed the line in a clear violation and was subsequently ruled off by Monmouth for the rest of 2020.
Beatty, on a Twitter post, said “I was taken aback.”
Dennis Drazin, Monmouth’s CEO, pointed out to the Asbury Park Press that Beatty was the only one to break the rule.
“Every other owner has respected our rules during the meet,” Drazin said.
Including the owners of Haskell winner Authentic.
And now for that promised perspective.
Beatty broke the clearly posted rules and deserves punishment. Banishment for the balance of the meet seems excessively harsh. Horse dopers get away with lesser punishments.
Considering the filly just won $165,000, a substantial cash penalty would be more in order. Something like a $5,000 or $10,000 “donation” to ReRun or another quality racehorse aftercare organization would create a win-win situation. Beatty would learn a lesson while a worthy charity gets the benefit.
In the final analysis, Beatty was swept up in the joy of victory and broke a rule. Lord knows, there is little enough joy in our lives these days.