`Regal' gets stewards' nod

Interference call puts second finisher first in Black-Eyed Susan

May 20, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Jockey Ramon Dominguez has been involved in his share of controversial incidents during the past two Preakness weekends, including the bump viewed throughout the world last year when Afleet Alex went to his knees in the big race after colliding with Dominguez's mount, Scrappy T.

Yesterday, he became the beneficiary of a similar confrontation when the Pimlico stewards disqualified first-place finisher Smart N Pretty for interference and placed Dominguez and Regal Engagement in the winner's circle after the Grade II, $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

It was the first of two confrontations involving Dominguez and fellow rider Norberto Arroyo Jr. in the day's most lucrative events. Dominguez filed an objection after the Black-Eyed Susan, and little more than half an hour later, Arroyo countered with a foul claim against Dominguez in the Pimlico Special.

In both cases, the stewards, who immediately flashed the inquiry sign after the Black-Eyed Susan, ruled in favor of Dominguez.

"I thought it was a good call," Dominguez said of the Black-Eyed Susan disqualification. "He kept coming out and I had to just take up. I had to move her out so we didn't clip heels. It's very difficult to go by a horse who's drifting out."

Arroyo was whipping Smart N Pretty left-handed vigorously before the bumping occurred, then proceeded to the finish line 3 1/2 lengths in front of Regal Engagement. Of course, Arroyo had a different version of the incident.

"I was always aware of the horse to my outside and never thought I took the path away from the other horse," he said. "When we brushed, my horse switched leads and I thought she straightened out then. I don't think my filly should have been taken down. His horse bumped mine."

"I ran straight down after watching the replay and said, `We've got to claim foul here,' " said Tom Bush, trainer of Regal Engagement. "Ramon, in his wisdom, stayed so tight on the other filly, and we got the call."

"Obviously, she was impeded," said Mark Spitzer, the eventual winner's owner. "I thought it was 50-50 whether we'd get it."

The favored California import, She's an Eleven, was never a factor in the 1 1/8 -mile race. Smart N Pretty broke alertly, set all the fractions and never lost the lead while completing the distance in 1 minute, 50.11 seconds. No one else besides Regal Engagement could launch a serious challenge.

A Kentucky-bred, Regal Engagement was purchased at the 2004 Keeneland yearling sale. New York-based, she has captured three of her past four starts.

"She's been a dream," Bush said. "She has a terrific pedigree [by Cat Thief out of Puestera by Forty Niner], but she was very backward as a yearling. Now she is taking some great steps forward."

Regal Engagement, a May 23 foal, will return to New York, where her connections will ponder where she fits next.

"She was fit and ready to run," Spitzer said. "The pace was perfect."

So, too, was the outcome. Eventually.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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