EDMONTON — With the horse-racing community still buzzing over a controversial disqualification in one of its most well-known races, a fight over which horse won a Canadian Derby race two years ago is being heard in court this week.
Queen's Bench Justice June Ross started hearing details Wednesday about the results of the Aug. 19, 2017, race at Northlands Park in Edmonton.
Chief Know It All was originally declared the winner despite a complaint from the trainer of Double Bear.
"I thought clearly — and I think that's apparent in the video — that my horse won the race," Hal Veale, who owns Double Bear, said outside court. "He didn't finish first because he was interfered with but, had he not been interfered with by Chief Know It All, he clearly was going to win the race."
Nearly a year later, the Horse Racing Appeal Tribunal disqualified Chief Know It All and named the horses Double Bear and Trooper John co-winners because they apparently finished in a dead heat.
The tribunal ruled Chief Know It All had made contact with another horse and altered the outcome of the race.
Veale said it's been a frustrating couple of years since the race.
"It's not easy to win the Canadian Derby, it really isn't," he said. "There are people who have raced for 20, 30, 40 years who have never won a Canadian Derby — and I was one of them up until that day.
"So there I am with a winner after all that time and people aren't letting me have it."
Veale said there's a $90,000 prize for the winner, $30,000 to the second-place horse and $15,000 to the third-place horse.
"That's a considerable amount of money," Veale said. "It's the biggest race that we have in Western Canada."
There's also the prestige of having a winning horse, he said.
The case echoes last weekend's Kentucky Derby. Maximum Security became the first winner to be disqualified for interference and Country House, a 65-1 long shot, was named champion.
Kent Verlik, chief executive officer of Horse Racing Alberta, said it's the second time in the history of the Canadian Derby that a panel of racing judges intervened following a complaint.
"Our stewards didn't think it impacted the race, so it was kind of a non-event," said Verlik. "But in appeal, the tribunal overturned the decision of the stewards and then they revised the placing as a result."
Court of Queen's Bench heard that one of the issues is whether the appeal tribunal had the proper quorum to make the decision.
James McFadyen, a lawyer for the owner of Chief Know It All, said he also has concerns about the decision to disqualify the horse.
"If there was interference ... that interference occurred between Chief Know It All and Double Bear," he said.
Under the rules, he said Chief Know It All should place behind the horse he fouled.
McFadyen said that means the horse should either finish second behind Double Bear or third behind both Double Bear and Trooper John.
"It was not argued by any of the parties that Chief Know It All should be disqualified from the race," he told court. "Under no circumstances should he be disqualified from the race."
Tim Rollingson, one of four owners of Chief Know It All, didn't go to the hearing but said the loss still stings — especially after believing his horse had won for so long.
"It was like winning the Stanley Cup on a goal that needed to be reviewed and then 10 months later having two people, who have never watched a hockey game in their lives, reverse the decision and give the Stanley Cup to a different team," he said from his home in Lethbridge, Alta.
— With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary