Michael Gill’s horses entered for the Feb. 3 card at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course will be permitted to start unless the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission steps in with immediate action, a spokesman for Penn National Gaming Inc. said Jan 29.
Gill’s horses were temporarily banned from the entry box at the Pennsylvania track from Jan. 27-30 after members of the jockey colony threatened to boycott races in which his horses ran. On Jan. 23, the riders refused to compete against horses owned by Gill and conditioned by his two main trainers, Darrel Delahoussaye and Anthony Adamo, due to their concerns over a high number of breakdowns in Gill-owned horses, and following the catastrophic breakdowns of two of his runners in a three-day period beginning Jan. 21.
According to Eric Schippers, senior vice president of public affairs for PNGI, the track has not yet received a response to a letter sent to the PHRC Jan. 28, but management remains “confident they will take swift action to investigate this matter given the allegations involved.”
The letter, sent by mail, fax, and overnight delivery to Michael Dillon, acting executive director of the commission, requests that the state step in to investigate the situation and determine what action, if any, should be taken.
“Please understand that the situation not only involves safety concerns raised by the jockeys, but also potential issues involving the integrity of the racing product,” the letter reads. “If jockeys ride not to win the race, but to avoid Gill’s horses, then it potentially calls into question the jockey’s motivation and thus the integrity of the race.”
Dillon was not available for comment Jan. 29, but PHRC spokesman Justin Fleming told the Associated Press he did not know if a decision would be made by Feb. 3.
A meeting between Gill and Penn National officials is scheduled for Jan. 30 to discuss the situation and to review necropsy reports for the breakdowns of Melodeeman Jan. 21 and Laughing Moon Jan. 23.
"This is strictly a safety issue," Thomas Clifton, a spokesman for the about 30 jockeys at Penn National, and one of the jockeys who fell when Laughing Moon went down, told the Associated Press. The group took an immediate vote afterward to boycott any races with Gill horses. The next race was briefly delayed until an agreement was forged for the voluntary withdrawal.