Ingrid Fermin, the CHRB's executive director, is the sister-in-law of Bruce Headley and Gus Headley's aunt.
"Because of my family relationship with Gus Headley and Bruce Headley, I hereby am recusing myself from this matter," she said in an advisory. "In the event that any decisions need to be made by the executive staff of the CHRB, Richard Bon Smith, the CHRB assistant executive director, will make those decisions. On a personal note, I support the stewards’ investigation."
The younger Headley, on behalf of Chris York, claimed Tactics, a 2-year-old first-time starter, for $80,000 after the gelding ran fifth as the 9-5 choice in the third race.
"Minutes after the race we began to receive phone calls," said steward Scott Chaney. "Given the peculiarity of the circumstances, we referred it to the CHRB to investigate the claim."
Chaney said there is no stewards hearing set as yet pending the outcome of the investigation. The previous owners, Bruce Chandler and Decourcy Graham, also have 30 days to file a formal protest, which would trigger a hearing.
"On the face of it, there doesn't appear to be any violation of the rules," Chaney said.
However, investigators would look into the relationship between the Headleys, he said. Gus Headley, 30, who received his training license this year after working as an assistant for his father, apparently saddled a horse for the elder Headley in the next race following the claim, the steward acknowledged.
"There was no conspiracy; the horse was up for claim," said Bruce Headley, who will be 73 on Feb. 14. "The horse was for sale and had a claiming price on him, period. Everybody wants to think something bad was going on. You ought to hear the phone calls I’ve been getting . . . the horse had good works and I’m surprised there weren’t a lot more claims in for him. They claimed Choctaw Nation off me for $40,000. Gus has a (trainer’s) license, he’s in that job, there’s no collusion."
Tactics, a son of Tactical Cat, was a $32,000 Barretts purchase. Gus Headley put in the only claim in for the horse.