LAUREL -- An incident at Laurel Race Course yesterday has led to a revision of the Maryland policy concerning stewards' inquiries. Departing from tradition, numbers of horses involved in inquiries will be blinked on the tote board during the time of review, chief steward Clinton P. Pitts Jr. said.
The incident that brought the change involved Gallant Stinger, a heavy favorite in the third race. The filly was disqualified from first to 12th for bearing out soon after the start and impeding two rivals. After the race, as has been the custom, announcement was made of an inquiry concerning the start and the "inquiry" sign was lighted.
For years, the public has not been alerted to which horse, or horses, are under scrutiny during inquiries; no numbers blinked on the tote board. Only during jockeys' objections were numbers flashed.
After a discussion of the no-blink policy with a reporter, Pitts talked about a possible change with colleagues John Heisler and Bill Passmore. Minutes later, Pitts said the stewards had revised the policy, at least temporarily.
"After we post the inquiry sign, we will determine the numbers of the horse or horses involved and have them flashed, if they finished on the board [top four]," Pitts said. "During our investigation, if we later find that another horse on the board was involved, we will also have the number flashed.
"To eliminate confusion, the wording of the announcer concerning the inquiry and objections has to be explicit.
"I'm sure this change will mean the reviewing process might take a little longer. This is a new process, and we'll try it at least for a while to see how it goes. But we're open-minded about it. If it helps the public's awareness, if it helps them to be more in the know, then we're for it."