Horse Returned, But Entry Clerk Out of a Job

Somer Hart has hired an attorney to find out why she was fired at Indiana Grand.

An Indiana Grand Race Course entry clerk who was fired after pointing out claims that were in violation of state racing regulations said July 30 she has contacted an attorney and plans to pursue legal action.

Somer Hart, an entry clerk for 11 years in Indiana, said she wasn't given a reason for her termination but believes it is tied to the July 15 claim of the Maggi Moss-owned It Happened Again for $25,000 at Indiana Grand. The 8-year-old gelding, who won the race and has earned almost $700,000, was returned to Moss at the order of the stewards and has been retired.

The claims clerk and Hart both pointed out to racing office officials that one trainer, Alex Clarkson, submitted claims for It Happened Again from two different owners, which is not allowed by regulation. For whatever reason, it wasn't pursued and also got by the stewards until trainer Tom Amoss called to question the claim more than a week later.

"It didn't just go through one set of hands," Hart said. "They could have taken different measures to stop what happened."

Hart said that about four days after the bad claim, another trainer submitted a claim for a horse from two different owners. She said it was quickly voided, and she then questioned racing office officials why the claim of It Happened Again wasn't immediately voided.

"They should know these rules in and out," Hart said. "I guess you learn something new about racing every day."

After hearing rumors about the July 15 incident, Indiana Breeder and Owner Protective, a watchdog group, got involved at the request of Moss. Ten days after the claim, IBOP filed a public records request with the Indiana Horse Racing Commission for the claim slips, stewards' reports, and all e-mail communication between the stewards and the IHRC. Jim Hartman of IBOP said July 29 the records had not yet been received.

When contacted by The Blood-Horse July 30, IHRC executive director Joe Gorajec said it was a routine matter than had been rectified.

"It is my understanding that trainer put in two claims," he said. "The stewards did not realize it at the time, and then the stewards rectified the situation by voiding the claim and ensuring that the horse be returned."

Moss said the plan was for It Happened Again to be retired after his July 15 race. She said she believed the claiming price was high enough to ensure the veteran gelding wouldn't be claimed. When the horse was claimed by owner Larry Carter, she attempted to buy him back but was rebuffed.

Moss said several days later she received a telephone call informing her of an alleged fraudulent claim.

"I received an anonymous phone call a week, maybe five days later," Moss said. "It involved a young woman who was working in the racing office that night who said the trainer put in a claim for two different owners, which is illegal. She was fired. I would have never known there was a problem without an anonymous phone call."

Moss said Amoss, leading trainer at the meet, then called the stewards to confirm what Moss had been told.

"They ordered the owner to return the horse to me and he did," Moss said. "There is something going on, and I know somebody got fired over this. She blew the whistle and I know she got fired."

Carter and Clarkson were told the horse was returned because Clarkson failed to file an authorized agent license for the claim. There is a racing regulation to that effect on the books, but IBOP and others are trying to find out how often the regulation is enforced, if at all.

A ruling on the matter was posted in the Indiana Grand racing office. Clarkson wasn't fined but the ruling notes multiple claims for the same horse and the lack of an authorized agent license.

Though she was terminated, Hart still has her racing license and said that on July 26 she went to Indiana Grand with her parents and some friends for dinner in the clubhouse dining room. She said after they ate the party was escorted out by security, and she was told to leave her license on the table.

"Horsemen were coming over asking me why I got fired," Hart said. "They threw me out of the clubhouse in front of all these people. I don't know if I'm ruled off. I guess they just don't want me talking to anyone about what happened."

IBOP said Hart "should be commended for stepping up to help protect the integrity of the claiming process in Indiana."

Frank Angst and Ron Mitchell contributed to this story.