06/28/2011 3:19PM

Gerard, vet at center of ringer scandal, dies at 76

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Mark Gerard, a veterinarian who infamously substituted a ringer in a 1977 race at Belmont, has died in Miami, according to the New York Times. Gerard was 76 and died of complications from a stroke, his sister told the paper.

Gerard, then 43, imported a pair of horses from Uruguay in June 1977. They were a champion, Cinzano, and a $1,600 purchase named Lebon, who had broken down in his previous start. Gerard entered Cinzano under Lebon’s name in a Sept. 23 turf race and the horse won, at odds of 57-1. Gerard collected more than $80,000.

The Uruguayan horse’s victory piqued the curiosity of two Uruguyan racing fans visiting Belmont that day, and, with the newspaper El Pais, they initiated an investigation that resulted in Lebon’s unmasking as Cinzano. The real Lebon, it turned out, had died in an accident at Gerard’s New York farm the day he and Cinzano arrived from Uruguay. Defended in court by F. Lee Bailey, Gerard contended he did not know the horses had been switched, and his wife Alice testified she had switched the horses without his knowledge. Ultimately, Gerard was sentenced to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine, but he served a shorter sentence after it was reduced on appeal.

Gerard is survived by his wife Alice.