Black cloud looms over Derby 140

04/17/2014 11:48 AM

As Derby contenders start to make their way to Louisville for the 140th Run For The Roses, the investigation into the charges levied by PETA against trainer Steve Asmussen still hangs over the horse racing industry.

Asmussen’s racing stable was the subject of a 2013 undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treament of Animals (PETA) in which they accused the trainer of several misdeeds including mistreatment of horses, abusing medications, the use of illegal “shocking” devices and using undocumented workers. PETA recorded more than seven hours of footage, mainly shot at Churchill Downs and Saratoga Race Course in New York, then released a nine minute video to the media, including the New York Times who published the story online March 19.

The fallout so far has been immense. Asmussen is being investigated by both the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission as well as the New York State Gaming Commission. Horse owner Ahmed Zayat, whose horse Nehro was featured in the PETA video, tweeted on March 19th: “I am shocked heat broken. I need to learn the facts…” Five days later, Zayat pulled his twelve horses from Asmussen. Asmussen’s name, which had appeared on the ballot for the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, was removed within days of the story breaking. Asmussen has also parted ways with long time assistant Scott Blasi, who was also featured in the PETA video.

KHRC spokesman Dick Brown released a statement saying that the KHRC will conduct a thorough investigation of these allegations and take appropriate steps once that investigation is concluded.

“The KHRC takes allegations of cruelty to animals very seriously,” Brown continued. “When our racing stewards are notified of any possible activity that involves cruelty to horses at licensed facilities, the stewards take prompt action to investigate and take the appropriate action. The KHRC strongly encourages anyone who has knowledge of, or suspects incidents of abuse to animals, contact the commission immediately.”


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