Valid reasons for scratches:
No ifs, ands or butts

Feb 15, 2005 1:39 AM

The best story about a scratched horse involves a thoroughbred named Harass.

Years ago at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., hard by Asbury Park, there was a horse called Harass, with the accent on the second syllable.

Harass was entered to run one day but lo and behold, was a late scratch. Morris Tobe, who called the races on the Jersey circuit back then, was required to announce the changes, as was his wont. They included rider changes, overweights and, of course, scratches.

When he came to Harass, he played sentences over and over in his mind before turning on the microphone. No matter his sensitivity, no matter how gingerly it was phrased, it was going to sound X-rated.

"Harass will not run; Harass has been declared; Harass has been scratched; scratch Harass."

Well, you get the idea. I think old Morris, a native New Englander who long ago passed on to the Great Race Track in the Sky, ultimately bit the bullet and simply spit it out, swiftly and succinctly.

Which leads us to this contrived segue.

There are a number of legitimate reasons why horses are scratched, or declared out of a race, after they have been entered to run.

Veteran racing official Tom Ward, who during his distinguished career has served as a steward from one end of California to the other, says the basis for scratching a horse could be for any of the following reasons:

”¡ A veterinarian’s scratch, because a horse is either sick, injured or unsound.

”¡ A horse does not match its foal certificate, which identifies the horse, similar to a birth certificate.

”¡ The owner of the horse is not licensed by the California Horse Racing Board.

”¡ A horse has not maintained the proper workout requirements, i.e, not showing at least one workout in 30 days; two workouts in 60 days; or three workouts in 90 days, one of which must be at least five-eighths of a mile in distance.

”¡ If a horse was beaten more than 30 lengths in its last race or is eased or shows a very poor performance, it would be placed on "the stewards’ list" of horses barred from running until it works five-eighths of a mile. The horse does not have to work within certain time constraints, but it must work fast enough for a clocker representing the track to actually time it.

”¡ A horse that has been entered in an overflow field could be scratched if the racing secretary needs to fill a field in another race with fewer horses entered, to make the race with the smaller field "go." When the horse scratched from the larger field enters the race with the smaller field, that is known as "entering back."

”¡ A horse can be scratched due to track conditions. If a race is scheduled to be run on turf and is moved to the main track, stewards allow horses that have been entered to run on turf only to be scratched,

”¡ Horses can be scratched from stakes races up until one hour before the race without giving any reason, other than in "overnight stakes," which in Southern California are races with purses of $100,000 or less. In overnight stakes, horse must be scratched by the designated time, usually 10 a.m. the morning before the race. If the scratch is put in after 10 a.m., a veterinarian must provide the stewards with a legitimate reason.

That doesn’t include naming a horse Harass.

The homestretch

Final add on Super Bowl XXXIX: The Eagles had every right to win the game, but two Donovan McNabb interceptions killed them. The first near the end of the first half in the red zone cost an almost certain field goal from dependable David Akers. The second near the seven-minute mark in the fourth quarter was when McNabb’s errant pass cost the Eagles their last serious opportunity to win.

And what was Andy Reid thinking when the Eagles turned what should have been a quick-step two-minute drill in the final seconds into a lethargic minute waltz? The Eagles came out of the huddle like a sloth on Valium. T.O. (Terrell Owens) was a big boost but TO’s (turnovers) buried the Birds. The New England Patriots had an outstanding season, but no team that lost a regular-season game to the pathetic Miami Dolphins can be called a dynasty.

And, whatever happened to Pete Rose?