Allegations that Hot Rod Charlie was wearing illegal horseshoes during the running of the Grade 2 Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs were dismissed by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority.

The Authority’s Board of Directors unanimously accepted the recommendations from Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Maloney, which reviewed the initial investigation by the stewards.

“We conclude that the stewards had a reasonable basis to find that the horseshoes worn by Hot Rod Charlie during the 2022 Lukas Classic did not violate HISA Rule 2276,” according to a letter signed by Bryan H. Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Maloney in Lexington, Ky. “As a result, we find no grounds to believe the stewards’ conclusion was clearly erroneous or unsupported by the evidence. We recommend that the Board take no further action in this matter.”

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act regulates horseshoes in Rule 2276. It states:

“(a) Except for full rims 2 millimeters or less from the ground surface of the Horseshoe, traction devices are prohibited on forelimb and hindlimb Horseshoes during racing and training on dirt or synthetic racing tracks.

“(b) Traction devices are prohibited on forelimb and hindlimb Horseshoes during training and racing on the turf.

“(c) Traction devices include but are not limited to rims, toe grabs, bends, jar calks and stickers.”

The Authority announced July 29, just days before Rule 2276 was to take effect Aug. 1, that it “shall not enforce traction rules for horses racing on dirt surfaces that are shod on hindlimbs with traction devices in the form of either a full outer rim shoe (up to 4 mm in height) or a toe grab (up to 4 mm in height).”

The allegations stemmed from photographs by EquiSport Photos that Rick Dawson and Eric Reed believed to be evidence that Hot Rod Charlie was wearing horseshoes with toe grabs. Hot Rod Charlie narrowly beat Rich Strike, which is owned and trained by Dawson and Reed, respectively.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards examining photographs of Hot Rod Charlie during the racing asked farrier Dean Balut why it appeared the horse’s left foot had toe grabs on race day but was not wearing them after in the barn.

“That foot and the way that appears to look like a toe grab, I can’t comment on that,” he told stewards in an interview obtained by Horse Racing Nation’s Freedom of Information Act request. “That just seems like a bad angle or some sort of shadow. The picture … where they have the foot front from the front view, if you take a look at the foot or the shoe itself, you’ll see almost an upside-down, smile shape. His shoes were so worn because they were 30 days and he paws a little bit, … that he possibly could have worn all the way back that the toe that’s inserted inside [the shoe] could have been showing. The shoe was regulation. There was no traction device, no toe grab below the shoe.”

Balut’s explanation seemed to correspond with the stewards’ inspection.

“We’ve examined the shoe on the horse’s foot since then and that makes sense,” a steward said in response.

Balut shod Hot Rod Charlie on Aug. 30 with a size 6 Kerckhaert Tradition XT with the toe grab ground to flush with the shoe, he told stewards.

“Kerckhaert did not have a shoe that was HISA compliant [before Aug. 30],” Balut said in a video statement to KHRC investigators. “What we did was ground the shoe, the toe grab, prior to coming to Kentucky to put the shoes on Charlie. So, those shoes were completely flush at the toe with no toe grabs.”

The review conducted by Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Maloney concurred with the stewards’ findings.

“We conducted a tactile examination of the shoes and felt no palpable traction device on the shoes,” according to the enforcement counsel. “As Hot Rod Charlie’s shoes had been sufficiently ground down, enforcement counsel could not feel the presence of any attachment to the horseshoes.”