Pal, the prominent pony horse of Jones, was found about 1:30 a.m. July 1 with mouth injuries after apparently being let out of his stall where he was stabled, a little more than 24 hours after an unidentified Thoroughbred in training was also discovered loose but uninjured in the stable area.
Jones, who has been put under the national spotlight since the on-track euthanization of his game filly Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), said July 2 that his own investigation into the matter has resulted in the termination of an employee who allegedly made threats against the trainer.
“The person we feel has been responsible has been ruled off the racetrack,” said Jones. “It was an employee of mine, but we are not going to call names.”
Pal, a 9-year-old mixed-breed Paint horse raised by Jones’s wife, Cindy, from his first week of life, was found in the shedrow on the other side of the barn where his stall is located. The horse was found to have blisters in his mouth and tongue, but was later treated by a veterinarian.
“He is OK, and back to eating normally,” Jones said. “After we got the call, we arrived at about 2:50 in the morning, and my wife started flushing his mouth immediately. He had had been given something that had blistered his mouth immensely. We continued to flush and flush and flush. Something had been put in his mouth to do this blistering. It hadn’t been cut. It was not from an injury. He didn’t have something in his mouth by mistake.”
Delaware Park executive director of racing John Mooney said the track is in the midst of its own investigation into the matter and couldn’t discuss details. But he said the track was working with Jones on the situation.
“We are beefing up surveillance and security, and continuing to investigate the matter,” he said.
Jones said he isn’t exactly sure what problems existed with the employee, who joined his crew at Oaklawn Park in April. But he said he had recently confronted the employee about his work performance.
“It was basically that he wasn’t here when he was supposed to be,” Jones said. “When he was confronted with it, he got very belligerent about it and made threats about me and to others.”
Jones is confident he is not the target of other horsemen or activists.
“As much as I hate it, and you think it can never happen to you, we know that it could come from our own organization,” he said. “It happens in all aspects (of industry).”
Jones doesn’t feel the employee has anything to do with the recent drug positive allegedly discovered in a horse owned by Jim Squires’ Two Buck Stables. Jones said he is still awaiting the results of a split sample sent to the Delaware Racing Commission and declined further comment.
John F. Wayne, executive director of the Delaware Racing Commission, said as far as he knows, the test results have not been returned, adding he couldn't comment further about the situation.
The trainer is hopeful the hoopla surrounding his barn the last couple of months can taper off and the focus can be on winning races. Despite the distractions, Jones is the leading trainer at Delaware Park, with 32 winners in 77 starts and $950,753 in earnings.
“We are now watching everybody – in-house and out-of-house,” he said. “Unless someone has been with me for four or five years, I’m watching them.”