NEW YORK (AP) " The incidents that triggered investigations into trainer Jeff Mullins for illegally administering a race-day medication in a security barn at Aqueduct and owner-breeder Ernie Paragallo for the treatment of horses at his farm are "very troubling," an industry official said Wednesday.
The New York State Wagering and Racing Board opened separate investigations into Mullins and Paragallo this week. What, if any, penalties are handed down have yet to be decided.
"Two recent incidents in New York are very troubling to the hundreds of thousands of responsible individuals who derive their livelihood from thoroughbred breeding and racing and the millions of customers who participate in our game," Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said in a statement.
Mullins admitted giving his horse Gato Go Win a medication in the security barn before the Bay Shore Stakes on April 4, but has said he was unaware he was doing anything wrong.
Stewards scratched the horse after security officials saw Mullins give the horse a dose of an over-the-counter medication described as a cough syrup. New York racing rules prohibit giving any medication other than Lasix to a horse in the race-day security barn. Dose syringes aren't allowed either, and that's what Mullins used to administer the medication.
Mullins trains I Want Revenge, an early favorite for the May 2 Kentucky Derby who won the Wood Memorial the same day.
"In the case of trainer Jeff Mullins, regardless of how this incident is ultimately adjudicated, there is no excuse for not knowing or abiding by the New York rules of racing," Waldrop said.
A search warrant for Paragallo's Center Brook Farm in Climax, N.Y., was executed Wednesday. State Police in Catskill were accompanied by representatives of the state Racing and Wagering Board, the Columbia Greene Humane Society, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Veterinarians reported all 177 horses on the farm showed varying stages of malnourishment, had inadequate shelter and lacked proper veterinarian care and vaccinations. The horses were seized and will remain on the farm under the care of the ASPCA, police said.
"In the case of owner Ernie Paragallo, the alleged abdication of responsibility for the welfare of one's horses, either directly or indirectly, is unacceptable," Waldrop said.
"In both instances, should the charges prove true, authorities should move swiftly to impose the most severe penalties applicable under the circumstances."
The Racing and Wagering Board is conducting a separate but related inquiry into the fitness of Paragallo to keep his license as a thoroughbred authorized agent.
On Tuesday the board issued a subpoena that will require Paragallo to answer questions about the care of his horses. He was not at the farm Wednesday, the New York Times said.
Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John D. Sabini convinced the New York State Breeding and Development fund to freeze any and all financial awards to Paragallo, Center Brook Farm and Paraneck Stable pending the outcome of the investigation.
Longtime breeder Arthur Hancock, who testified before Congress last year on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing, condemned the incidents.
"Our livelihood depends upon the public perception of our industry," he said Thursday in Lexington, Ky. "Anything that happens that takes away from that good, positive energy is killing our livelihood, so I'm extremely disappointed."
The Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills Phipps said in a statement the group supports and assists law enforcement agencies, the courts and racing officials in the investigation of animal cruelty.
"The Jockey Club maintains a long-held conviction that owners are responsible and should be held accountable for the care, well-being and humane treatment of their thoroughbred horses," Phipps said.