08/17/2010 8:11PM

Hearing into Wake at Noon breakdown


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – A nine-hour Ontario Racing Commission hearing held Tuesday at the request of owner Bruno Schickedanz will resume here next Thursday morning.

The Woodbine Entertainment Group barred Schickedanz from entering or stabling horses at Woodbine following the death of 13-year-old Wake At Noon on Woodbine’s training track June 29, and Schickedanz is seeking to have the ban overturned.

Wake At Noon, a former Canadian champion who had not raced since Nov. 2007, was vanned in from Schickedanz’s farm in nearby Kettleby to breeze four furlongs. He fell, broke a leg and ultimately was euthanized following an examination by veterinarian Candace Allen.

Schickedanz said at the hearing he had conferred with his farm manager, Tracey Harpley, and Wake At Noon’s regular rider, Dessy Luokanov, three days prior to the horse being shipped in to Woodbine.

"All indications were that the horse was doing okay, and I said ‘Why don’t we send him to Woodbine, do a slow work with him, and see how he responds to it,’ as a possible first step toward resuming his career?" said Schickedanz, who was the last witness called by his lawyer, Frank Roth, at Tuesday’s marathon session.

"I’m very upset, about the horse, but I really don’t think I did anything wrong."

Earlier at the hearing, which was held at the nearby Ontario Racing Commission offices, Harpley had testified that Wake At Noon had been training on an exercise machine and galloping on the farm for the past six months and was "very strong and fit."

Tom Marino, who had a couple of horses for Schickedanz at Woodbine, was the trainer of record for Wake At Noon and Luokanov, was in the saddle for the work.

"He was galloping very well, and at the quarter pole the horse was going good," said Luokanov. "He was changing to his left lead, and stumbled a little bit.

"I held him up, and he changed to his right lead but stumbled and fell."

Woodbine Entertainment Group conducted an investigation into the incident and three days later issued the indefinite sanctions on Schickedanz. Marino was served with a trespass notice which prohibits him from training any horses here.

The Ontario Racing Commission also conducted an investigation, which is complete with the exception of the toxicological results from a necropsy, that are still outstanding. Once the investigation is complete, the Ontario Racing Commission will determine whether Schickedanz has in fact violated any of its rules.

Frank Roth, Schickedanz’s attorney, called an array of witnesses on Tuesday, including Ontario Racing Commission investigator Rick Grant; Greg De Gannes, another Schickedanz trainer; Rick Grant, one of the Ontario Racing Commission investigators on the case; and Marino.

Jamie Martin, Woodbine’s executive vice president of racing; and Steve Koch, vice president of Thoroughbred racing, also testified after being subpoenaed by the Schickedanz legal team.

Woodbine Entertainment Group’s lawyer, David McKutcheon, said Martin and Koch had barred Schickedanz because they believed the matter involved the integrity of the racing industry.

"It has to deal with the health and welfare of horses, and public perception – not just how they are racing, but how they are training as well."

Koch’s testimony referred to "substantial outcry" following the death of Wake At Noon, including other horsemen and owners, the media, and blogs and on-line forums.

Woodbine’s side of the story will be heard next Thursday. Those scheduled to testify include Abraham Katryan and Mark Fournier, both former Schickedanz trainers, and trainer Mark Casse.