Kelly Leak Disappointment in the Best Pal Stakes
The $150 000 Best Pal Stakes, held at Del Mar, was set to be a thrilling horse racing event for two year olds, as the lineup of contenders included some of the best horses available. No-one could have expected that the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes would end in so much controversy, upset and anger, and the disapproval of the spectators was so audible that their boos and outcries drowned out almost everything else at the racecourse.
The contender list for the Best Pal Stakes included Coronet of a Baron, Charlie’s Moment, Captain Steel, S.S. Stone, Azul Leon, Miguel’s Mascot, Kelly Leak, Turbo Call, Fiery Rebel and Fu Peg He Rat. The upset for the day began as four spectacular racehorses were thundering down towards the wire, namely Azul Leon, Kelly Leak, Charlie’s Moment and Coronet of a Baron. Typically such an important race as the Best Pal Stakes is a warm up towards the $250 000 Del Mar Futurity, so all four these racehorses were giving it their best.
And as they approached the wire, Kelly Leak won the race by a nose, with Azul Leon in second, Coronet of a Baron third and Charlie’s Moment in forth. But victory for Kelly Leak was short lived as it was ruled that the two year old was the cause of an accordion situation, which forced Charlie’s Moment to check and it is felt that this act might have cost him the opportunity to finish in a placed position. With the stewards coming to this conclusion, Kelly Leak was placed in fourth position, making Azul Leon the winner, with Coronet of a Baron and Charlie’s Moment moving up to second and third position respectively.
This decision led to much controversy and disappointment amongst trainers and jockeys, and the spectators made their anger known, as winning trainer Doug O’Neill could barely get a word out over the screams of the fans. He did however manage to say: “We love to win, but hate to win under these circumstances. It definitely looked like the horse had to alter his course. Rafael wanted to go outside, but he felt like that had been taken away from him, so he bounced inside and it got pretty tight in there. It was tough for the horses, too. There were four gutsy 2-year-olds going for the wire. I feel as if Azul Leon had clear sailing he could have gotten up.” The jockey for Kelly Leak was extremely upset about the judgment, commenting to the media, “I can't agree. Not at all. It's not my fault if the other jockey can't ride his horse. He just happened to be in the wrong place. I was riding my horse and riding my race. That's all.”
Unfortunately for some, the steward’s decision remains final, and both camps have confirmed that they would not be returning to Del Mar for the Del Mar Futurity, but will instead set their sights on other events such as the upcoming Norfolk Stakes or the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile.