Trainer Jimmy Takter told harnessracing.com Monday morning that he plans on appealing the decision by the Meadowlands’ stewards last Saturday afternoon to disqualify his horse Pastor Stephen from first to sixth in the $500,000 Peter Haughton Memorial final for causing interference.
Despite later winning the Hambletonian with Muscle Massive and overall having one of the best days a trainer ever had, Takter said he kept replaying the Haughton over and over in his head.
The incident occurred as the Yannick Gingras-driven Pastor Stephen led the field toward the half. Mike Lachance had tipped Charlie De Vie from the two hole to move to the top, but when Gingras refused to yield and Lachance angled back to the inside, Pastor Stephen appeared to throw in a few extra steps. That caused Lachance and Ron Pierce, driving the Takter-trained Leader Of The Gang, the prohibitive favorite in the race who was sitting third, to grab hold of their horses.
Pierce was able to then send Leader Of The Gang uninhibited to the front, but that trotter later tired down the stretch. Although the John Campbell-driven Neal took a short lead in midstretch, he couldn’t hold off the late rally of Pastor Stephen, who was angled off the pylons by Gingras. The Lindy Reserve, driven by Tim Tetrick, rallied late to cross the wire second behind Pastor Stephen in 1:55.2.
“The horse knuckled over, didn’t make a break, and I cannot see it,” said Takter. “He didn’t make a break; if he had made a break it would be a different story. What happened didn’t change the outcome of the race.”