Updated on 02/13/2017 12:31PM

Investigation probes whether horses swapped identities

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The horse identifier at Delta Downs in Louisiana has been suspended, and the Louisiana Racing Commission is conducting an investigation into the possibility that two horses have made starts in the state under swapped identities, the top official of the commission confirmed on Wednesday.

The identifier, Melissa Dueitt, was suspended late last week at the start of the investigation, according to Charles Gardiner, the executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission. Gardiner said the investigation revolves around two horses with “nearly identical” physical markings that may have raced in three races in the state since late last year.

Gardiner said the horses came from the same barn, but he declined to identify the trainer.

An official for Boyd Gaming, the owner of Delta Downs, acknowledged the suspension and investigation this week but would provide no comment, referring all inquiries to the racing commission.

An official with knowledge of the investigation said late Wednesday afternoon that the probe involves two horses trained by Eduardo Ramirez. One of the horses, Tough to the Bone, won a $5,000 claiming race on Dec. 22 at Delta, in his second start with Ramirez listed as the trainer. In his prior start, Tough to the Bone had won a $5,000 claiming race at Delta on Nov. 30.

The other horse, Willieverwin, was claimed for $10,000 out of a Nov. 23 race by Ramirez at Delta. Willieverwin subsequently finished sixth in an allowance race at Delta on Dec. 20 and ninth in a claiming race on Jan. 20 at the track.

Both Tough to the Bone and Willieverwin are bay, 4-year-old geldings.

Ramirez did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Ramirez has won 11 races this year from 59 starts, racing entirely in Louisiana. Last year, he won 83 races from 349 starts, with earnings of $1.4 million.

The horse identifier at a racetrack checks all horses entered in races for physical markings matching a description on the horse’s papers after the horses arrive in the paddock. The identifier is also supposed to check a lip tattoo unique to each registered Thoroughbred.

Gardiner said Louisiana state police are assisting in the investigation and that officials are awaiting the results of DNA testing on the involved horses.