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Penn National Race Course Veterinarians Arrested
Following FBI Investigation
by Suzanne Bush - May 2015

Horse racing is as much mystique as it is luck. For centuries the sight of these breathtaking athletes racing across fields or around tracks has struck primal, respondent chords in the hearts and imaginations of humans. The speed and grace, coupled with the innocent power of horses are at the heart of the mystique.

But once the concept of racing became an industry, something in the equation changed. Horses are still brilliant, spectacular athletes. But the people who train them to race, or who own them or who believe that there actually could be a “sure thing” are frequently not motivated by the sheer joy of watching horses run.  They want nothing less than winning performances. Every single time. And that requires, some think, something more than a horse and a rider.

Thus opens another chapter in the sad story of Penn National Race Course in Grantville. For several years, this facility has been at the center of one scandal after another. In 2010 jockeys at Penn National staged a “strike” in which they refused to ride any horses fielded by Michael Gill, citing numerous breakdowns of Gill-owned horses. The jockeys feared for their safety and were horrified by the number of Gill’s horses that had suffered catastrophic injuries. Despite being an Eclipse Award winner, Gill was ultimately forced to leave Penn National Race Course.

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All Four Vets Plead Guilty, Agree to Cooperate in Investigation
May 2015

A press release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on April 15, Dr. Kevin Brophy, age 60, Florida, Dr. Fernando Motta, age 44, Lancaster, PA, and Dr. Christopher Korte, age 43, Pueblo, Colorado, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab in Harrisburg. Dr. Renee Nodine, age 52, Annville, pleaded guilty April 14.

According to U.S. Attorney Peter Smith, the four defendants were each charged in separate criminal Informations on March 26 for their involvement in illegally treating thoroughbred race horses on race day at Penn National Race Track in Grantville, Pennsylvania. Each defendant is charged with allegedly administering drugs to horses within 24 hours of when the horse was entered to race. This conduct was in violation of the state law prohibiting the rigging of publicly exhibited contests and regulations prohibiting the administration of drugs to horses within 24 hours of when they are entered to race. Additionally, because the administering of the drugs was in violation of the state criminal laws, rules and regulations governing thoroughbred racing, they were not dispensed in the course of the defendants’ professional practice.

At the guilty plea proceedings before Magistrate Judge Schwab, Assistant United States Attorney William A. Behe explained that the drugs were not administered to treat the horses but to enhance the horses’ performance in the race or to give it an edge over other horses. According to Behe this constituted misbranding of the prescription animal drugs in violation of federal law. The alleged activity took place at various times beginning as early as 1986 and continuing up to August, 2014.

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Cheshire Hunt Point to Point Races
by Marcella Peyre-Ferry - May 2015

For the third year in a row, Grinding Speed has won the Cheshire Bowl for the Open Timber Race at the 70th running of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds Point to Point Races, outside Unionville, Pa.

Run on Sunday, March 29, Cheshire was a good spring tune up for Grinding Speed, owned by Michael Wharton and trained by Alicia Murphy, in his preparation for the Maryland Hunt Cup.

"He went very well. He settled in nicely and he gained a lot of ground jumping the third from home. He's got a good kick so he finished out nicely," jockey Mark Beecher said after his win. "With jumpers, if they get a good jump they can give themselves a breather. I know he's got a good kick at the end."

This was a good weekend for Beecher, who rode three winners on Saturday at Green Spring, then added two more at Cheshire on Sunday. In addition to Grinding Speed, Beecher rode to a win in the Heavyweight Race on Puller, owned by Charles C. Fenwick, Jr., and trained by Todd Wyatt.

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Brandywine Hills Point to Point Races
by Marcella Peyre-Ferry - May 2015

Run on Easter Sunday, the Brandywine Hills Point to Point Races drew light entries for their 73 running, on Sunday April 5 at the Myrick Conservation Center near West Chester, Pa.

The featured race for the day was the Open Timber, with five entries going to the starting line. Joshua G. under Eric Poertz took an early lead and hung on to win for owner/trainer Jason Cole.

"I really didn't want to take him to the front that early. I probably should have held him a little more, but he was just out-jumping the other horses in the field," Poertz said after the race. "On the last fence, he was coming in behind another horse that out-jumped him. He dug in through the stretch. I'm very happy with the horse."

As only one entry was prepared to run in the Foxhunter's Timber, Bet Bridges on Just Barely (owned and trained by William Meister) started and ran with the two entrants for the Novice Race.  Just Barely fell far back, easily distanced by twenty then forty lengths and more, until race leader Spectacular Squall pulled up at about five fences from home apparently with tack problems.

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Looking for Trouble
Mal advises a reader who just can’t get comfortable on a horse.

by Malorie de la Mare - May 2015

Dear Mal…

I am not the most confident rider, and always feel as if my connection to my horse is tenuous at best. When I think about riding, my mind is full of negative possibilities, not necessarily the really wonderful psychic rewards of riding. I know this is not the best attitude to take to the barn, but I can’t figure out how to stop my imagination from conjuring up bad scenarios. What do you think?

Nervous Nellie

Dear Nellie…

Hmmm. You certainly seem to be on the road to concluding that riding a horse is not for you…but doubt lingers. So let’s probe the problems and remove enough doubt to get you into the saddle, shall we?

I’ve made a list of the things that might be frightening you—beginning with the most benign and working up to the worst case scenario. Do you fear:  Looking like a doofus? Falling? Hurting your horse or yourself? Getting attacked by wild animals? I’ve left out several other possibilities like falling into a pile of horse poop face first (euwww!). To begin, everyone looks like a doofus at one time or another. But I’ve always thought that nothing makes a person look more elegant than sitting on a horse. So, unless you’re going out with some totally uncool outfit, or without a helmet, you will look just fine.

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Look at what’s coming up in the Pennsylvania Equestrian July 2015
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