The New York State Gaming Commission is investigating last weekend’s Travers Stakes, won by Will Take Charge after the trainer of the runner-up filed a complaint alleging the use of an electronic device by the jockey of the winner to alter the outcome of the race.
Specifics of the review were not made public by the commission. A spokesman for the commission would only confirm that a review was being conducted when contacted Saturday morning. Eric Guillot, trainer of Travers runner-up Moreno, said prior to Saturday’s third race at Saratoga that he filed the complaint.
“It was me, I filed the complaint, showed them the video,” Guillot said. “They’re ready. Your opinion and my opinion is this, do you think if they didn’t have anything that they’d do all this? Do you think they would interrogate a kid like this?”
Will Take Charge won the Travers by a nose over Moreno, surging in the final strides from third place inside the sixteenth pole to get up and win the $1 million race on the last jump. Luis Saez rode Will Take Charge for the first time in the Travers, replacing Junior Alvarado, who rode the Unbridled’s Song colt to a runner-up finish in the Jim Dandy Stakes earlier in the Saratoga meet for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. See NBC Sports video of Travers.
Lee Park, director of communications for the New York State Gaming Commission, said the commission has also contacted outside help to work the investigation.
“We sought assistance from the New York State Police, which has expertise in video analysis,” Park said. “We are doing a thorough investigation.”
Saez was named to ride in seven of the 12 races on Saturday’s card and arrived at the paddock for the third race, where he rode Bro Rodrigeaux for Lukas, flanked by two NYRA security guards and another private security guard in plain clothes. Lukas defended Saez and said the incident involved someone that “must have trouble losing.”
“He’s a good solid kid, to put him through that is wrong. He didn’t do anything wrong,” Lukas said. “I’m sure they’ll get to the bottom of it. It’s too bad. Racing doesn’t need it. Just a lot of controversy that is unnecessary. He just rode a very good race.”
The controversy, which was certain to gain momentum as closing weekend continues at Saratoga, is the latest recent negative stain on the Saratoga meet that’s come under fire over breakdowns and jockey injuries.
Prior to news circulating rapidly through the stable area on a rainy Saturday morning the talk on the frontside the day before involved the breakdown of popular New York-bred gelding Saginaw in the third race Friday.
Saginaw, the winner of 21 of his first 40 starts, broke both sesamoids in his left front leg and was euthanized shortly after he was vanned off the track and taken back to his barn inside Clare Court.
Other high-profile incidents at the meet include injuries to jockeys Joel Rosario and Jose Lezcano, who were among the leaders in the riding colony, after spills on the Saratoga turf courses. Rosario was injured the day before the Travers while Lezcano was injured the day after.
Two horses were euthanized after breaking down on the turf course Sunday, the day after the Travers, in the race prior to Royal Delta’s dominating victory in the Personal Ensign Stakes.
Another incident involved exercise rider Raymond Bulgado, who suffered significant injuries and was in critical condition at the Albany Medical Center following an incident Monday during a workout on the turf course of the Oklahoma Training Track.
The last high-profile alleged electronic device, commonly called a “buzzer” at the racetrack, involved the 2003 Kentucky Derby when the Miami Herald published photos it believed showed winning jockey Jose Santos carrying a device to win with Funny Cide. Kentucky racing officials, who initially said the photos looked “suspicious,” conducted a review and later cleared Santos of any wrongdoing.
Jockey Billy Patin drew a lengthy suspension for using a buzzer in the 1999 Arkansas Derby, won by the maiden Valhol.