In a case of the Stewards exercising discretion they are indeed allowed by rules to exercise, they have barred owner Ron Paolucci, owner of Loooch Racing, from entering a rabbit in the Woodward.
The rabbit was being entered to help keep Gun Runner honest on the front end with a legitimate pace and help set things up for the Loooch runner, War Story. The rabbit, May B, did not have much of a chance on paper and didn’t look like he belonged in the race with a chance to win it. His purpose was to affect the outcome and Stewards are given the discretion to refuse, ban or scratch such an entry.
That is a lot of subjective discretion regardless of what you think of May B’s chances. Rabbits have been allowed for years, and on occasion some forget to stop, and win. They’ve aided Buckpasser against Dr. Fager, hurt Commentator, and have been involved in the outcome of numerous stakes throughout racing history.
Paolucci was honest with the Stewards and seemingly was penalized for it. He surely could have arranged for a more acceptable rabbit to be entered if he knew his entry would be refused. Rabbit use has declined here in the States but continue to be used regularly in Europe.
Personally I have always been against rabbits. I’d like to think every horse entered has a chance and is trying to win. Obviously that is fantasy as some horses are entered over their head, some are given races, some are not at their best, and some are thrown in to be claimed. This is just inherent to the game we play.
Rabbits are different though. Their intention to affect the race but not win is generally known beforehand. While some may forget their role and win, the intention is to affect the outcome. For this reason I have always looked at them as a blemish on a game that doesn’t need anymore.
I am also against more subjectivity. I am for clearly defined rules, fairly and equally enforced. When you get into this rabbit is “OK” but this one isn’t, I think you get into dangerous ground where the appearance of not being impartial becomes too blatant. That’s not to say there are ulterior motives as to which rabbits are and are not allowed but I did hear a wise man once say absolute power corrupts absolutely.