The WaPost story (and the DRF's) brings up lots of issues.
I think it's possible that Restoring Hope was rank and out of Geroux’s control and he needed to settle him behind Justify so as not to get in a speed duel that wouldn't benefit either horse. Don't even want to imagine the conversation between him and Baffert had he worn down Justify to the point of losing, and he might have panicked a little at the thought. Still, all those moves he made on the horse didn't look too good.
I think this sort of thing also looks questionable to your average race fan/bettor. Not sure this would have ended so well either had it worked, at least not for Pletcher's relationship with WinStar.
Repole had also wanted Noble Indy to take an early lead and push a pace that Justify might have found taxing, potentially allowing for Vino Rosso to use his late speed to win the race. He said that he and the horse’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, “were crystal clear” to the jockey, Javier Castellano, “to make the lead,” but for some reason it didn’t happen.
“He wanted me to be on the lead, but I didn’t have enough speed to get to the lead,” Castellano said (via DRF). “I made an effort, but I got to the point where I had to give up. How far can I go — 10 wide — and try to go to the lead? I can’t.”
“Javier opted to go to his plan B,” Pletcher said. “Mike and I didn’t discuss a plan B.”
Adding a layer of complexity was the fact that the other co-owner of Noble Indy, WinStar Farm, is also a majority owner of Justify. Thus WinStar Farm, unlike Repole, would have had no desire to see Noble Indy set a pace that would have hurt its prized horse’s chance at Triple Crown immortality.
That sort of conflict had professional handicapper Kevin Cox tweeting Saturday, “THIS is why common trainers & owners need to be coupled. You have to protect the public.”
I'm a little surprised to see so much grousing from owners, trainers, and jockeys after this race. While I somewhat agree with Kevin Cox, with the convoluted multiple ownerships here across trainers, I'm not sure which horses you would couple that would have prevented a conflict of interest or changed anything here.
It truly is a fascinating situation, and one that's likely to get more common. It will be interesting to see if this story has "legs" so to speak.