The State of Florida has opened an investigation into the post mortem amputation of the rear right leg of Casual Conflict following the horse's breakdown and subsequent euthanization at Gulfstream on Feb. 3.
According to State officials, both the Department of Pari-Mutuel Wagering and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, charged with the oversight of veterinarians, will look into the events that saw Dr. Philip Aleong amputate the leg while the remains were in a holding area in Gulfstream's backstretch.
Gulfstream's president Scott Savin, while unable to comment on an active investigation, did say that the action may have violated State statute 550 which permits the State to conduct an examination on a horse that breaks down while on the track. "Presumably, the owner of the horse would have to say 'May I' before doing something like that," Savin said.
But according to the horse's owner Mike Gill, the amputation was simply a matter the vet doing what he felt was right. "Dr. Aleong called me and asked if he could examine the leg," Gill described. "The fracture was gruesome and the leg was just hanging on by a thread, and all he did was just snip off the skin so it wasn't just left there."
Mark Shuman, the horse's trainer, said that Aleong then brought the leg to his barn where he advised him to return it. The dismembered leg was subsequently returned and sent to the State's racing lab at the University of Florida's Department of Veterinary Medicine for further examination.
Gill and Shuman have dominated the owner and trainer standings at the current meet, drawing the ire of rivals for their aggressive style in claiming horses. Through Feb. 9, one-third of the way through the 90-day meet, Shuman was within two wins of tying Bill Mott's 1996 record for most training wins in a single season. While the track maintains no similar records for owners, it is thought that Gill has already set a milestone.
And Gill feels that it is their success that has caused the event to become overblown. "Everybody is just trying to find something on us, but I invite them to fully examine the horse," he said. "Take blood, do whatever they have to do and I guarantee they will find nothing wrong."
Gill also said that he was assured that Aleong's amputation of the leg was standard practice, and added that he gave the veterinarian permission to perform a post mortem myectomy on Casual Conflict "for the sake of practice."
Aleong declined comment.