11/24/2015 11:00AM

Fines, suspensions handed out in Mahoning mix-up

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Stewards at Mahoning Valley Race Course near Youngstown, Ohio, have suspended the track’s horse identifier for 60 days and issued penalties to three other people for their roles in a mix-up at the track in which a winning gelding ran in a race restricted to maiden fillies and mares.

Thomas Clark, the identifier, will be suspended from Nov. 26 to Jan. 24 of next year and fined $500 under the ruling. He was suspended by the owner of Mahoning Valley shortly after the mix-up came to light on Nov. 4, the day of the race.

In addition, the horse’s trainer, Shane Spiess, has been suspended 30 days and fined $500, even though Spiess was not at the track that day. Michael Micallef, the groom that brought the horse to the paddock, was also suspended 30 days and fined $500, while Francisco Avina, an assistant trainer in the stable who was responsible for saddling the horse, was fined $200.

The rulings noted that Micallef and Avina do not have valid racing licenses in Ohio. All of the people involved in the rulings waived their rights to a hearing after an investigation into the incident.

In the mix-up, a 4-year-old gelding, Leathers Slappin, raced as a 3-year-old filly, Ruby Queen. Leathers Slappin won the $5,000 maiden-claiming sprint and paid $222.40 for a $2 win ticket.

Investigators examined wagering patterns on the race and concluded that there wasn’t any suspicious wagering on the race, according to officials at Mahoning Valley.

The mix-up didn’t come to light until Leather Slappin was sent to the test barn to provide a urine sample. The state veterinarian noted at that time that the horse was a male.