Horses

Hall of Fame trainer banned after another horse death at Santa Anita

Trainer says Kentucky Derby incident could have been a ‘disaster’

Mark Casse, trainer of War of Will, says the incident in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby could have been the “biggest disaster in horse racing history.” War of Will was impeded by winner Maximum Security, who was later disqualified by the stewards.
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Mark Casse, trainer of War of Will, says the incident in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby could have been the “biggest disaster in horse racing history.” War of Will was impeded by winner Maximum Security, who was later disqualified by the stewards.

Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was ruled off the Santa Anita track after a fourth horse in his care died while racing or training.

American Currency on Saturday suffered a life-ending leg injury to his left-front fetlock (ankle) while running over the training track, according to Rick Arthur, chief equine veterinarian for the California Racing Board. It was the first fatality this meeting on the training track, which sits between the turf course and infield area and is not used for racing. It was the 30th horse fatality since the meeting opened on Dec. 26.

“Individuals who do not embrace the new rules and safety measures that put horse and rider safety above all else will have no place at any Stronach Group racetrack,” the company that owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, in Albany, Calif., said in a statement.

“We regret that Mr. Hollendorfer’s record in recent months at both Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields has become increasingly challenging and does not match the level of safety and accountability we demand. Effective immediately, Mr. Hollendorfer is no longer welcome to stable, race or train his horses at any of our facilities.”

In addition to the four horses at Santa Anita, he lost two during the fall-winter meet at Golden Gate Fields. River of Doubt, a 3-year-old filly, died on Nov. 11 and Definantly, a 6-year-old gelding, was euthanized on Jan. 6 after breaking down.

Hollendorfer could not be reached by The Los Angeles Times, but told the Daily Racing Form, “I’m trying to work out a plan now. The only thing I have to say is every time anyone loses a horse the whole backstretch loses.

“… I’m training over 100 horses right now. Santa Anita didn’t want me to stay on the grounds. My opinion was that was a premature thing to do. I thought it was extreme. Now I have to step away for a while.”

Santa Anita’s meeting ends Sunday and its sister track, Golden Gate Fields, is currently not running.

American Currency, a 4-year-old gelding, had won three of 13 races lifetime. He was scheduled to run last Sunday in a $12,500 claiming race, among the lowest quality races run at Santa Anita. However, he was listed as a veterinarian scratch.

In his last race on May 17, a $25,000 claiming race, he finished last in a five-horse field, finishing 17 1/2 lengths behind the fourth-place horse. Hollendorfer was part-owner of the horse.

Hollendorfer had two horses entered on Saturday, the Nightingale in the seventh, and Dueling in the ninth. Both were scratched.

Hollendorfer, 73, maintains stables at Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields and just sent horses to run in New York. Joe Harper, chief executive and president of Del Mar, said it was too early to make a decision about whether Hollendorfer would be allowed to race at the seaside track, which opens on July 17. Orlando Gutierrez, a spokesman for Los Alamitos, said his track, which picks up racing June 29, had not made a decision.

Mike Marten, a spokesman for the CHRB, said the pre-review panel that evaluated horses for the last six days at Santa Anita, would be used at Los Angeles, although the people who comprise it might change.

Hollendorfer’s recent success has come with Shared Belief and Songbird, both Eclipse Award winners. He has won 7,617 races in 33,519 starts in a career that goes back to 1979. His horses have won almost $200 million in purses. He was inducted into the racing hall of fame in 2011.

The first horse of his to die this meeting was Psychedelicat, a 4-year-old gelding, when he was euthanized after breaking down in a $16,000 claiming race. His second horse to die was Battle of Midway on Feb. 23. It was the former Breeders’ Cup winner’s death that sparked a national firestorm. Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding, died after suffering an injury in a $10,000 claiming race.

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