‘Formal review’ is requested of suspicious race at Assiniboia

The Manitoba Jockey Club, non-profit operator of Assiniboia Downs in Canada, has filed a formal request with its provincial regulator, the Liquor, Gaming & Cannabis Authority, for a “full and complete review of the fifth race on Thursday.”

In the $5,000 claiming race going 7 1/2 furlongs, 3-1 second choice King Witt and jockey Sheldon Chickeness broke on top and were clear by 4 1/2-lengths after an opening half mile in 49.6 seconds. King Witt continued on a comfortable lead into the stretch when Chickeness began to look back at the competition and appeared to stop riding.

Once the field caught up with King Witt, Chickeness re-engaged his mount and they rallied to be beaten just a neck by 5-1 shot Mucho Express.

From the race chart: “King Witt…opened up out of first turn, increased margin, took a good lead into the stretch, drifted out and appeared to be stopping in early stretch, was passed by three horses to his inside, started to run again when the winner went by him on the inside just after passing the eighth pole, gave his best from mid-stretch to the wire.”

There was no stewards’ inquiry into the race.

“The unusual nature of the stretch drive from race 5 last night has caused us to reach out and make this request, said Darren Dunn, CEO of the Manitoba Jockey Club. “When I watched the race in real time, my first reaction was that the jockey was pulling the horse up due to a potential injury. When the jockey re-engaged the horse after the balance of the field caught up and then began to aggressively ride the horse to the finish line, the sudden change was very concerning.

“Although in our opinion there would not have been any adjustment to the ultimate order of finish in the race, due to a lack of any interference with any other horses, that there was no inquiry posted by the Stewards created great concern with the public from a perception standpoint. As such, we felt we needed to act and make this formal request.”

King Witt is trained by Jerry Gormeau and owned by Henry S. Witt Jr. The 3-year-old gelding is now 0-for-10 with three seconds and one third. Chickenness has been a jockey since 2001, according to Equibase. He ranks ninth in the jockey’s standing at Assiniboia Downs with 10 winners from 65 mounts.

“To be clear, we have full confidence in our regulator and Stewards and value the significant experience they bring to our industry,” Dunn said. “We trust that they may already be reviewing this situation on their own. However, in light of what we saw last night as an operator and the significant feedback we have received, we felt an obligation on behalf of our customers and ASD Live brand to crystalize our position of concern on this very important matter.

“While we can’t instruct or direct our regulator on how to act on this matter, our request is for a formal review and the issuance of a statement on their findings that we can share with the public.”

Assiniboia Downs resumes racing on Monday.

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