Van Driver Fined $500 in 'Catomine Case

Horse transportation driver Dean Kerkhoff was fined $500 by Hollywood Park stewards for his role in misidentifying Pam and Marty Wygod's champion Sweet Catomine as a stable pony before transporting her from Santa Anita to Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic near Los Olivos and back in early April.

Sweet Catomine bled in a workout six days before her fifth-place finish in the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and was sent to Alamo Pintado for treatment during the early morning hours of April 4 before being returned a day later. Kerkhoff admitted to signing the filly out of Santa Anita's stable area as a "pony."

Kerkhoff testified at Wygod's hearing last month that he was never instructed to falsify the documents and made the decision to misidentify Sweet Catomine on his own.

Charges against Wgod were dismissed after the hearing failed to prove Wygod had violated any racing rules in his comments and conduct about Sweet Catomine's health in the days leading up to the Santa Anita Derby. Similar allegations against the filly's trainer, Julio Canani, were dropped late last month.

Wygod, Canani, the Los Angeles Turf Club, and others face civil complaints from at least two bettors that filed lawsuits alleging fraud and unfair business practices in the withholding of information about the filly in the days leading up to the race. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge last week postponed the deposition of Ingrid Fermin, the California Horse Racing Board's executive director, that had been scheduled by the attorney for Wygod.

According to attorney Stephen Bernard, who represents one of the plaintiffs, the judge directed the parties to cooperate on a deposition schedule later.

In post-race comments, Wygod disclosed that the filly suffered several minor setbacks in the week prior to the race. The most serious, he said, was that the horse had hemorrhaged internally during a workout and was taken to a clinic more than 140 miles away for therapy. None of this had previously been disclosed, and it was later learned that Sweet Catomine had been removed from the Santa Anita backstretch without being correctly identified.

Kerkhoff was expected to appear at a hearing on May 12, but it was canceled after his attorney came to a settlement arrangement with stewards. He declined comment while expressing his relief that the matter was over.

Sweet Catomine was retired less than a week after the Santa Anita Derby and was bred to leading sire A.P. Indy.

Jack Shinar contributed to this article