Owner of The Wicked North to Appeal Ruling : Big ‘Cap: Hersh says he will go to court if necessary in attempt to overturn disqualification.


In the language of the racetrack, the owner of The Wicked North is prepared to go the distance.

“I’ll go all the way with this,” Phil Hersh said Sunday of an appeal of a stewards’ disqualification that cost his horse a $550,000 victory in the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap.

The Wicked North, after finishing first by 1 1/2 lengths, was disqualified to fourth place for interfering with Myrakalu, who tried to go between two horses at the top of the stretch. Stuka, not involved in the traffic jam, was moved up to first place and the three Santa Anita stewards also moved Myrakalu from fourth to third.

“I think that 99% of the people who watched the race would have appealed,” said Hersh, 75, a retired plumbing contractor.


Hersh’s appeal goes to the California Horse Racing Board, which will schedule a hearing presided over by a referee. The referee’s recommendation to the board is not binding. Should his appeal be unsuccessful, Hersh could also pursue the matter in the courts, and on Sunday he seemed determined to fight the disqualification that far if he had to.

It is unusual for a judgment call by the stewards to be overturned. What is believed to be the only example in California came after Tight Spot won the Del Mar Derby in 1990. The stewards disqualified Tight Spot and gave the victory to Itsallgreektome, but both the racing board and a court judge restored Tight Spot’s victory. That battle went on for almost a year.

“I think the horse on the inside (Hill Pass) bothered Myrakalu, not my horse,” said David Bernstein, who trains The Wicked North. “My horse came over four or five inches at the most. My horse is so big that he gave the illusion that he blocked Myrakalu’s path more than he did.”

The stewards said they were obligated to disqualify The Wicked North because his interference might have prevented Myrakalu from finishing third. He was a nose behind Bien Bien in the battle for that position.

“If Myrakalu had still finished third, we might have looked at the situation differently,” steward Pete Pedersen said.

Hersh was critical of Allen Paulson, the owner of Stuka. Speaking sarcastically, Hersh said: “He came down and told me to get out of the winner’s circle. He showed a lot of class, and you can quote me.”

After reviewing the race Sunday with Kent Desormeaux, The Wicked North’s jockey, the stewards suspended him for five racing days, starting Thursday. Unofficially, there have been 14 disqualifications at the meet, leading to 13 jockey suspensions.