03/21/2017 3:43PM

Delta trainer Ramirez fined for horse mixup

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Trainer Eduardo Ramirez has been fined $1,000 by the stewards at Delta Downs for his part in a incident involving two horses that raced under swapped identities, and the case has been referred to the Louisiana Racing Commission for additional penalties, according to rulings from the track.

While the ruling stated that Ramirez did not intend to run the horses under the wrong names or attempt to “deceive the betting public or to profit in any way,” it said that Ramirez “was extremely neglectful in his care and custody” of the two horses, which ran under swapped names in a total of three races at Delta Downs in Vinton, La., in December and January.

An investigation into the swapped identities involved the state racing commission, the state police, and the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau, which analyzed betting patterns on the three races but did not find any evidence of unusual or suspicious wagering.

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Contacted on Tuesday, Ramirez declined to comment, citing a hearing in front of the commission that will likely be held next month. The state racing commission’s top official, Charles Gardiner, did not return phone calls on Tuesday, but he had earlier said that the commission was “confident there was no intent to deceive.”

The two horses, Tough to the Bone and Willieverwin, were disqualified from the races in which they ran under swapped identities. Both are bay 4-year-old geldings – the ruling noted that they “are of similar size and appearance” – and investigators believe they were placed in the wrong stalls in Ramirez’s barn sometime in late December, according to the ruling. Tough to the Bone was transferred to the trainer in early November, and he claimed Willieverwin approximately two weeks later.

Racing as Tough to the Bone, Willieverwin won a Dec. 22 race at Delta by 11 1/4 lengths at 3-1.

The case came to light when a state veterinarian discovered that the lip tattoo of the horse entered as Tough to the Bone in a Jan. 26 race at Delta did not match the horse’s records. Tough to the Bone was scratched from the race after the discovery, precipitating the investigation.

The stewards’ ruling recommends that the fine for Ramirez be increased to $5,000. Under Louisiana racing rules, the maximum fine that can be levied by the stewards is $1,000.

Two racing officials at Delta, horse identifier Melissa Dueitt and test barn employee Jocko Fontenot, have been suspended 14 days each for their roles in the incident, after having already been suspended by the track.

The horse identifier is charged with matching the horse’s lip tattoo and its physical markings with papers on file at the track while the horses are in the paddock. Test-barn officials are also supposed to verify a horse’s identity as part of the process to pull post-race testing samples from horses.