Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was under scrutiny before most recent horse deaths
As Jerry Hollendorfer waits until next Friday to find out if he will be able to race at Golden Gate Fields, a picture is starting to emerge as to some factors that the Stronach Group weighed before banning the hall of fame trainer from its facilities.
The Stronach Group has offered little insight into the reasons for its decision against Hollendorfer other than the four equine deaths at Santa Anita and two at Golden Gate. However, declarations filed with the Alameda Superior Court, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, show that questions about the Hollendorfer barn started in mid-May, before the third horse under his care died.
Judge Noel Wise, of the Alameda County Superior Court, is reviewing all the filings and will rule next Friday if a temporary restraining order will be granted so Hollendorfer could race at Golden Gate Fields. A similar request was granted in San Diego so he could race at Del Mar.
According to the declaration of Dr. Dana Stead, the racing veterinarian for Santa Anita, jockey Rafael Bejarano told Dan Ward, Hollendorfer’s chief assistant, on May 18 that he detected that Blackjackcat was lame in his right front leg after a workout. The horse was then entered the next day to run in a race May 24.
Stead examined the horse May 20 and found his lameness to be a 3 on a scale of 1-5. Stead asked Ward why the horse was entered and was told, “We were hoping that if we could get him right by the race, great, if not, we’d scratch.”
Dr. Tim Grande, official veterinarian for the CHRB, examined the horse May 23 and said the lameness had improved but the horse was scratched and an ultrasound ordered.
“The fact that no veterinary diagnostics were performed until the horse was scratched was negligence by Mr. Hollendorfer,” Stead said.
Stead’s declaration also said he was told one of Hollendorfer’s personal veterinarians was asked to sign a form saying that a horse was fit enough to work and be removed from the veterinarian’s list. Stead said Ward told the vet that if they didn’t sign the form, “the Hollendorfer barn would find another veterinarian practice that would be willing to do so.”
The veterinarian signed the form but said in the comments that he didn’t think the horse was sound enough to work. Neither the horse nor the veterinarian was named in the declaration.
Drew Couto, Hollendorfer’s attorney, said he plans to file declarations to refute these claims but prefers to wait until the court makes them publicly available before discussing them.
On May 25, Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding trained by Hollendorfer, suffered a catastrophic injury while racing and was euthanized. According to the deposition of Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinary officer for Stronach, Kochees suffered a “biaxial sesamoid fracture.”
State racing regulator Madeline Auerbach and Santa Anita executive Timothy Ritvo were business partners in the ownership of a horse, raising eyebrows.
“In my opinion, Kochees likely would have shown lameness after his last workout, which should have been observed by the trainer and triggered a request to have a veterinarian diagnose the source of the lameness,” Benson said in her declaration. “Mr. Hollendorfer failed to do so, and instead entered Kochees in a race, leading to his demise.”
The day after the death, a group of 10, representing the CHRB, Santa Anita, Stronach, California Thoroughbred Trainers and Thoroughbred Owners of California met at Santa Anita to discuss the horse fatalities, in general, and Hollendorfer, in particular. The group did not take any action against Hollendorfer at that time.
American Currency, trained by Hollendorfer, suffered a fatal injury while training June 22. It was the 30th and final death of the meeting, which ended the next day.
According to the declaration of Aidan Butler, now acting executive director of California racing for Stronach, the CHRB horse safety review panel demanded that all of Hollendorfer’s horses be scratched the final two days of the meeting, which the stewards did.
That same day, Butler, Benson and Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of TSG, met with Hollendorfer in Butler’s office and the trainer was offered a chance to “state his case.” Butler said Hollendorfer was “unable to provide satisfactory answers,” and he was told he was going to be excluded from all Stronach facilities and had 72 hours to remove all his horses from Santa Anita, Golden Gate Field and the San Luis Rey Downs training facility.
Hollendorfer is currently allowed to race in New York, Del Mar, Los Alamitos and the fair circuit.
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