Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is “no longer welcome to stable, race or train his horses at any of our facilities,” read a statement published by The Stronach Group Saturday afternoon. The track said that the decision was “effective immediately.” While the statement did not specifically list the tracks at which Hollendorfer would be banned, it appears that would mean the trainer is no longer welcome at Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Laurel, Pimlico and Gulfstream Park.
The news came after a fourth of Hollendorfer’s horses broke down and was euthanized. American Currency, a 4-year-old gelding was breezing on the training track Saturday morning when he broke down. He was eased, beaten 28 1/2 lengths, in his last start in a claiming race on May 17. Claimed at Golden Gate two starts back by Hollendorfer for $20,000, American Currency was listed as a vet scratch out of a $12,500 starter allowance at Santa Anita June 16.
“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 statement continued. “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.”
“I just got the news today, so I’m just trying to make things right,” said Hollendorfer when reached by telephone Saturday evening. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve started over 33,500 horses and I have been in horse racing for 40 years, and made it into the Hall of Fame. It hurts us whenever we lose a horse and we really don’t know what the problem was with this horse today, but he was working and he pulled up. You know, I’ve started a lot of horses here in California at Santa Anita and no one wants to let me train here any more. I thought that was a little premature. Maybe not quite so fair. I think it was extreme. I guess that’s all I have to say. I have to step away from horse racing.”
Asked if he had heard from Del Mar and Los Alamitos as to his status at those Southern California tracks, Hollendorfer said, “no, we’re working on that.”
Friday, CNN posted a report that named Hollendorfer as a trainer “under scrutiny” by Santa Anita after three of his horses had lost their lives at the meet since it opened for the season Dec. 26. Those losses included the most prominent horse of all of Santa Anita’s rash of breakdowns this winter and spring, Battle of Midway (Smart Strike), the 2017 GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner.
The CNN report said that Hollendorfer had also lost two horses at Golden Gate Fields since December, and said he had been sanctioned 19 times by the CHRB since 2006 “for over-medication or use of illicit medications on horses.” The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Regulatory Rulings website shows 15 violations going back to 2005, including seven for bute overages; one flunixin overage; five for the use of an unapproved substance, methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant; two for using more than one approved substance at a time–bute and flunixin; and one for a dexamethasone overage. He also was fined for possessing an unlabeled prescription medication.
Before Saturday’s incident, the chief veterinary officer for The Stronach Group, Dr. Dionne Benson, hinted that Hollendorfer may not be welcome back.
“We’ve just gotten some information about what he’s done and his violations,” Benson told CNN. “And so, we’re considering whether he will be, every trainer, we’re considering whether they will be welcome back to Santa Anita.”
Hollendorfer’s two Saturday entrants at Santa Anita were scratched by the stewards and his two intended Sunday runners at the Arcadia oval will also be scratched. His three Saturday entrants at Pleasanton–not affiliated with The Stronach Group–remained in their respective races.
Inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2011, Hollendorfer has saddled 7,617 winners from 33,519 starters (22.7%), according to Equibase statistics, in a career spanning five decades. A three-time winner of the GI Kentucky Oaks (Lite Light, 1991; Pike Place Dancer, 1999; Blind Luck, 2010), Hollendorfer also has three Breeders’ Cup victories to his credit, the latest of which was the aforementioned Dirt Mile victory by Battle of Midway, who is also the lone Hollendorfer trainee to hit the board in a Triple Crown race when third in the 2017 GI Kentucky Derby. Hollendorfer-trained Eclipse Award winners include Blind Luck, Shared Belief and Songbird.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement from Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo which read, “Banning the infamous Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer from all Stronach tracks sends a message to every sleazy trainer that if your horses drop like flies, you will drop with them. Other trainers with multiple violations and the blood of dead horses on their hands should go the same way, pronto. PETA and Social Compassion in Legislation are working with the California Horse Racing Board and California legislators to enact rules and legislation to get to zero fatalities and this means that trainers with multiple violations must not be licensed in this state. Ending all racing cruelty would be the best, but nothing less than these conditions is acceptable.”