Trainer Joe Woodard, second in the nation in victories this year, was ordered to remove his horses from Turfway Park after he scratched six horses entered Sept. 16 with about 30 minutes to post time for the first race.
Woodard, who trains for Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays, is involved in a dispute with Dr. Bryce Peckham, chief state veterinarian for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, over a horse Peckham scratched at Turfway Sept. 9. Woodard subsequently told Daily Racing Form he planned to boycott Turfway, where about 25 of his almost 200 horses were based.
Woodard continued to enter horses and scratch them in protest. According to the Turfway racing office, 18 Woodard horses were scratched from Sept. 8-17. Thirteen were scratched for “no reason,” two for sickness, one for failing a pre-race exam, one for being part of a betting entry, and one for being on the also-eligible list.
Turfway president Bob Elliston said Sept. 17 he received a call at about 5 p.m. the day before informing him of the scratches. He said he contacted Woodard, who told him the horses were scratched on the “advice of counsel.”
“I then asked him to vacate the property,” Elliston said, noting Woodard has a conflict with the state vet, not the racetrack.
Elliston said he later contacted the Turfway stewards and asked them to take “whatever legal remedies and sanctions” against Woodard for “not conducting business in concert with the regulations of Kentucky racing.”
Kentucky racing rules must be followed when it comes to scratching horses.
Sources said Joe Dancer, the horse scratched the morning of Sept. 9 after a pre-race exam performed by Peckham, had gotten loose earlier and ran around on the blacktop in the barn area before being caught. It’s the job of Peckham of and his assistants to ensure all the horses entered for each day’s program are fit to race.
Early in the Sept. 16 program, for example, one of the vets scratched a horse after observing it in the pre-race warmup about six minutes before post time.
Horses stabled at Turfway are examined in the morning; shippers are examined in the receiving barn, generally after 3 p.m. for night racing. They also are observed in the paddock, on the track, and after races.
Woodard, leading trainer at nearby River Downs in Ohio this year, told Daily Racing Form he was shipping the Turfway-based horses to Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course. He also told the Form he couldn’t comment further on the advice of counsel.
Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming Inc., said Sept. 17 he was told Woodard had contacted Penn National but couldn’t confirm if the trainer had been granted stalls.