Owner Who Filed Remsen Protest Surprised NYSGC Won't Hear It

Mo Donegal and Zandon battle to wire in Remsen | Sarah Andrew

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A Monday news story in the Blood-Horse stating that the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) would be taking no action on a formal protest lodged by the owner of the runner-up in the Dec. 4 GII Remsen S. came as a surprise to that owner and his attorney, who told TDN later in the day they had received no communication from the commission indicating that the protest wouldn't be allowed to advance.

The matter involves Jeff Drown, the owner of Remsen second-place finisher Zandon (Upstart), who said that the actions of victor Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo) and that colt's jockey, Irad Ortiz, Jr., cost him the win, which was decided by only a nose. In the immediate aftermath of the race, the stewards conducted an inquiry and listened to a foul claim lodged by jockey John Velazquez, but let the order of finish stand without any disqualification.

On Dec. 9, Drown, through his lawyer, Drew Mollica, lodged a protest with the NYSGC over the non-DQ, arguing that the very tight margin of victory was part of what merited a second look by the commission.

The Blood-Horse first reported Dec. 20 that there is no mechanism in this instance for the NYSGC to overturn the stewards' decision. That story quoted NYSGC communications director Brad Maione, who said, “The Remsen was declared official by the stewards. There is no process for appeal once the race is declared final by the stewards.”

That decision was news to Mollica, who spoke to TDN on Monday both before and after checking with his client to confirm that the NYSGC had never alerted either of them that their formal protest would not move forward.

“Neither my client nor I have been officially informed of any action or inaction by the gaming commission,” Mollica said. “As such, we have no comment. But we are surprised there are press stories about this without the gaming commission contacting us. When we are officially informed that that's their position, we'll weigh our options.”

When TDN attempted to get a clarification from Maione via email Monday afternoon, Maione did not directly answer a question asking if the NYSGC had made any attempt to communicate with Drown. Instead, Maione's reply contained only a link to the original stewards' decision from Dec. 4, plus a copy of commission rule 4025.1.

That rule states, “Every person subscribing to a sweepstake or entering a horse in a race to be run under this Article accepts the decision of the stewards or the decision of the commission, as the case may be, on any question relating to a race or to racing.”

As the two colts crested the eighth pole in lockstep for the final furlong of the Remsen, Mo Donegal tightened the gap between them under right-handed stick work from Ortiz, then the two colts bumped and brushed approaching the wire.

The Equibase chart described how Ortiz threw “repeated exaggerated crosses with the left-hand rein near the face of the runner-up” in an “attempt to intimidate” Zandon.

Velazquez said post-race that Mo Donegal, “laid on top of me right before the wire and just beat me by very little.”

The day after the Remsen, Ortiz was suspended 30 days by the Aqueduct stewards for careless riding, primarily for his role in unseating another jockey in a Dec. 3 race. But state steward Braulio Baeza, Jr. told Daily Racing Form Dec. 5 that part of that penalty also had to do with Ortiz's stretch ride in the Remsen.

In addition, there were two substitute stewards on the job at Aqueduct on the day of the Remsen, when state steward Baeza and Jockey Club steward Jennifer Durenberger were both not officiating the races.

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