The California Horse Racing Board has ruled that Stuka is the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, but Phil Hersh, the owner of The Wicked North, is going to take the battle to court.
Hersh, whose horse beat Stuka by 1 1/2 lengths in the $1-million race on March 5 only to be disqualified by the three Santa Anita stewards, said Friday night that his attorneys are preparing an appeal of the racing board’s decision. The board’s commissioners announced earlier Friday that they had accepted hearing officer Steven Schwartz’s recommendation that Hersh’s original appeal be disallowed. Schwartz presided over a 6 1/2-hour hearing into the race on March 19.
In another decision announced Friday, the racing board disallowed Kent Desormeaux’s appeal of a five-day suspension resulting from his ride on The Wicked North.
The first four finishers in the Big ‘Cap were The Wicked North, Stuka, Bien Bien and Myrakalu. After reviewing the race for 11 minutes, the stewards disqualified The Wicked North to fourth place for interfering with Myrakalu and moved each of the other horses up one place. The winner of the race will receive $550,000 with the next three horses earning $200,000, $150,000 and $75,000.
At Hollywood Park on Friday night, steward Pete Pedersen said that a ruling regarding Desormeaux’s suspension would be issued today. The earliest day for the start of the suspension would be Wednesday, and theoretically that would disqualify Desormeaux from riding Soul Of The Matter on Saturday in the Kentucky Derby. States have a reciprocity rule regarding suspensions. Unlike California, Kentucky doesn’t have a designated-race rule, which permits suspended jockeys to ride in important races.
“Just like the owner of The Wicked North, I’m prepared to go all the way with this if necessary,” Desormeaux said Friday night. He indicated that if the suspension takes effect next week, he will seek a court order that would allow him to ride in the Derby. Desormeaux also is scheduled to ride the undefeated Lakeway on Friday in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.