By Bill Finley
When his barn at Saratoga was placed under quarantine due to an outbreak of Equine Herpesvirus, trainer Ken McPeek assumed his horses would be allowed to race starting Aug.1, the day the quarantine was due to be lifted. Instead, none of his entries for the Aug. 1, 4 and 5 cards were accepted because, McPeek was told, the horses were still under quarantine at the time entries were taken.
While it is too late to get his horses entered into the upcoming cards in question, McPeek, through his attorney Drew Mollica, has appealed and demanded a hearing over the matter, which Mollica charges, has caused his client “irreparable harm caused by the arbitrary and capricious denial of the ability to enter eligible horses trained by McPeek in races at Saratoga Racecourse …”
“Understanding that it is too late for these horses to run in these races, there are two very good reasons for doing what we are doing,” Mollica said. “First, McPeek feels aggrieved by the lack of respect shown for him and his owners and for fellow horsemen confronted with this situation. His position is that this just can't be. Secondly, we seek equitable relief, whatever that may be. We are seeking some relief. McPeek and his owners followed every protocol, did everything they were asked. They were committed to racing, trained for these races and had no opportunity to run. At some point, McPeek would like someone to be held accountable.”
Mollica listed seven horses McPeek had intended to run over the three days in question. He has not started a horse in Saratoga since July 15, the opening day of the meet.
Mollica said that McPeek and his owners were put on public notice by the commission that the horses affected by the quarantine would be released from quarantine and permitted to race starting Sunday, Aug. 1. Instead, the entries were denied. That led to Mollica reaching out to the stewards on July 30, some 3 ½ hours before the Aug. 3 card was drawn, in hopes that a hearing could be held and the McPeek horses could begin running as soon Aug. 4. He said he sent emails and placed phone calls to Gaming Commission steward Braulio Baeza Jr. and to the commission itself, none of which were returned.
“All New York horsemen need to know what the rules are,” Mollica said. “As I wrote in my letter, when the Gaming Commission created this protocol they were well aware that entries for August 1 and beyond took place prior to August 1. It's understood that if you are going to enter the population August 1, entries for August and beyond took place prior to August 1. To come up with an explanation that McPeek's horses were ineligible to run is completely illogical.”