A 1-for-51 Delaware Park trainer is facing a one-year suspension for allegedly faking news of a bowed tendon in an unraced colt and ,when the owner asked the trainer to find a new home for the 3-year-old, trainer Gerald James instead allegedly took possession of the Thoroughbred, changed its registration with The Jockey Club and raced it with a new name under his personal ownership.
Delaware Park chief state steward Fritz Burkhardt told TDN via phone Tuesday that officials were tipped off to the alleged swindle by the horse's breeder and true owner, who recognized the identity of the colt after skimming race entries and result charts and recognizing the pedigree.
James, 38, was penalized with a one-year suspension in an Oct. 8 ruling issued by the Delaware Park board of stewards that cites “false ownership/hidden ownership” in the heading and “alleged theft” in the ruling's text.
According to Burkhardt, James trained a string of horses at the just-concluded Delaware meet for JD Farms, whose principal owner is Jim DiMare. One of them was a homebred named Wise Twitter (Cyber Secret).
At some point late in the summer, Burkhardt said, James communicated to DiMare that Wise Twitter would not be able to race.
“”He told the owner that the horse had a bowed tendon, but the horse didn't really have a bowed tendon,”” Burkhardt said. “”[James] said the horse was not able to run; that it had a career-ending injury.” DiMare asked James to place the injured horse into a new off-track home.”
“”Then [James] changed the name and he ended up entering the horse in Virginia,”” Burkhardt said. “”The horse had never run, so [James] just changed the back of the [foal] papers. And there wasn't any name on the papers because the [owner] bred the horse.””
The new name chosen by James was Actspectation, which was also the name of one the most successful and celebrated horses in the Virgin Islands in the early 2000s.
Burkhardt said James scratched Actspectation from that Sep. 7 $40,000 maiden-claimer on closing day at Colonial Downs and instead chose to run the colt on the third-from-last day of the Delaware meet.
In a $40,000 maiden-claimer over seven furlongs on the turf at Delaware Sep. 30, Actspectation went off at 113-1 odds, was four wide on both turns, and finished 10th, beating only one horse.
“”Then the real owner of the horse called to complain, and he put us on the case,”” Burkhardt said.
According to Burkhardt, when James was confronted with the allegations, “”he gave us a wild story that didn't ring true for us” that was based on James saying “he changed the name because he didn”t like the other name.””
TDN could not locate a working phone number for either James or DiMare, and Burkhardt said privacy regulations prohibit the stewards from giving out licensees' contact info.
Asked if James had appealed his suspension, Burkhardt said, “”Not yet, no. He just got [the ruling] this afternoon. He”ll probably contest this, I imagine.””
According to Equibase, James has been training since 2008, with a 5-for-167 lifetime record and $123,587 in career earnings.
Asked if JD Farms was pressing criminal charges, Burkhardt said, “”As of yet, I don't know. They came in here [Tuesday], took all their [foal] papers, and sent a van to take all their horses away.””
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