When is a Maiden Not a Maiden? It Cost this Owner $5,331 to Find Out

Magnolia Wind (#6) at Laurel in her first DQ Nov. 9 | Jim McCue/MJC 

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When is a maiden not considered a maiden for entry purposes? Pennsylvania-based owner Albert “Abby” Abdala III lost $5,331 in second-place purse money trying to find out after an “ineligible entry” ruling was imposed upon him and his trainer, Bernard Dunham, on Feb. 2 by the Turfway Park stewards.

Abdala, who has owned Thoroughbreds for 10 years after getting started in horse ownership with Standardbreds, told TDN in a Feb. 8 phone interview that he still doesn't understand why Turfway officials accepted his entry for the 0-for-9 Magnolia Wind (Central Banker) in a $30,000 maiden-claiming race Jan. 4 if the stewards later deemed the 4-year-old filly to be ineligible.

The eligibility issue arose after the Jan. 4 race when Magnolia Wind was going to be entered again, and Turfway stewards Barbara Borden, Ron Herbstreit, and Brooks Becraft III learned that Abdala had an appeal pending with the Maryland Racing Commission over Magnolia Wind's race-interference disqualification from first to second in a $30,000 maiden-claimer at Laurel Park Nov. 9.

In that Laurel race, the 12-1 Magnolia Wind led all the way in a 5 1/2-furlong grass sprint. According to the Equibase chart, she “drifted out near the sixteenth pole, dug in and prevailed.”

“She won the race,” Abdala said. “But the stewards said we were 'herding,' which I thought was ridiculous because both riders were riding to the wire, nobody checked, and we held on. I appealed it, but the hearing wasn't going to be until Feb. 6.”

In the interim, after Magnolia Wind had gone nearly two months without a start, Abdala said he told Dunham, who has been a licensed trainer for 33 years, “She's good right now, we've got to race her.”

Although Magnolia Wind trains at Fair Hill in Maryland, Abdala did not want to run her on the dirt somewhere closer to home, because that's not her best surface, he explained.

“That's why I went out to Turfway, because she needs the Tapeta or the turf,” Abdala said.

Because Magnolia Wind's record on Equibase clearly showed the she had zero lifetime wins, “I assumed that the horse was eligible as a maiden,” Abdala said.

“I told my trainer to put her in, and he put her in. He entered her [electronically via] the computer. And we never said anything to anybody [about the Maryland appeal], because I didn't know we had to. They accepted the entry. Then we drove that filly nine hours to get to Turfway.”

The long journey appeared to pay off. Magnolia Wind ran second at 5-1 odds.

“And now they come after me saying that we knew she wasn't eligible, and that we're unlawful,” Abdala said.

Abdala said that after being notified of the ineligibility, he didn't come away from a conversation with Borden, Herbstreit, and Becraft with a clear understanding of why the Turfway's racing office officials or the stewards didn't bear some responsibility for allowing the entry in the first place.

TDN emailed Borden, the chief state steward, plus Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) executive director Jamie Eads, asking for some context behind the ruling and for clarification about why the Jan. 4 entry was approved by Turfway officials.

A different KHRC spokesperson replied with an email that outlined some of the sequence of events on “background only.” Because what was disclosed in that email could not be attributed to a specific KHRC official, the entire explanation has not been provided here. A follow-up request by TDN asking if the KHRC wanted to provide any response for the record did not yield a reply prior to deadline for this story.

The Turfway stewards' report for that date that is signed by all three stewards and posted on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission website makes no mention of the ineligibility.

But the subsequent Feb. 2 stewards' ruling disqualified Magnolia Wind from second place and ordered her $5,331 in purse earnings redistributed.

“I'm an accountant, a CPA, and I have an accounting firm,” Abdala said. “We have a lot of horse racing people as clients. I've asked everybody, and they all told me, 'Abby, your horse was eligible.'”

Abdala said he is no longer pursuing any appeals in Maryland or Kentucky regarding his twice-DQ'd filly.

“I didn't want to cause trouble or anything, and I want the filly to be able to race,” Abdala said. “So I just dropped everything–I dropped the hearing in Maryland, and I dropped the [potential appeal] at Turfway. I just want her to run. It's detrimental to her. After I dropped everything, they said they'll accept our entry now.”

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