Lawsuit Filed Over So. Florida Claim

Sylvia Heft filed suit in Broward County (Fla.) Circuit Court against Gulfstream Park, claiming negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.

The suit surrounds Heft's claim, in Gulfstream's seventh race on March 4, 2000, of Brass Badge for $50,000 from Carolina Stable. It was determined following the claim that Brass Badge did not meet State of Florida guidelines requiring all horses to have on file a Coggins certificate verifying a negative test for equine infectious anemia (EIA) within the prior twelve months.

Through her trainer John Robb, Heft successfully petitioned Gulfstream's stewards to void the claim. Shortly thereafter, following a negative test for EIA, Carolina's principal Manny Estevez appealed the stewards' ruling to Gulfstream's hearing officer Doug Donn, and Donn reversed the ruling and reinstated the claim.

Next, Heft filed suit against Carolina, and, in Sept. 2000, was awarded a summary judgment that voided the sale of the horse and ordered Carolina to refund the $50,000 to Heft. But with nine months having elapsed and Carolina claiming it is unable to refund the money, Heft has sought relief against the track.

"It looks as though we may end up being responsible," admitted Gulfstream's attorney David Romanik, who nonetheless defended the track's actions, adding, "Claiming rules are a hotbed of contradiction, and she got the horse she claimed in the first place."

Both Romanik and Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association executive director Kent Stirling say that as a result of this matter they have implemented changes at South Florida tracks in the manner in which Coggins certificates are maintained.