01/10/2014 5:59PM

Jacobson absolved of wrongdoing in racehorse found headed for slaughter


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association found there was “no wrongdoing” on the part of trainer David Jacobson involving the finding of the horse Toque at an auction for horses bound for slaughter in Pennsylvania last September, according NYRA steward Braulio Baeza Jr.

Though Toque was rescued from an auction in New Holland, Pa., he was euthanized about 10 days later on a farm on Long Island due to infirmities.

Under NYRA house rules, any owner or trainer found knowingly to sell a horse for slaughter can have their stalls permanently revoked. Jacobson was the leading trainer on this circuit in 2013 with a record 164 victories.

“Our finding is that there was no wrongdoing on his part,” Baeza said.

Jacobson claimed Toque for $25,000 from trainer Charlton Baker and owner Francis Paolangeli on March 21 at Aqueduct. Toque, a half-brother to the multiple stakes winner Notacatbutallama, finished fifth for $6,000 at Monmouth on May 27. Jacobson then shipped him to Suffolk Downs, where Toque was pulled up midway through a $4,000 claiming race for which he was the 1-5 favorite on June 19.

According to records Jacobson provided Daily Racing Form, Jacobson transferred Toque to Maura O’Connor on June 28. O’Connor, whose daughter works as an exercise rider at Aqueduct, has a farm in Massachusetts where she houses myriad breeds of horses, including only a few Thoroughbreds.

According to O’Connor, who spoke to Baeza and later Daily Racing Form on Thursday, Toque and a non-Thoroughbred that belonged to O’Connor had become too ornery to be on her farm. O’Connor gave both horses to someone she thought had found a home for them. O’Connor had given this person, whom she declined to name, several horses in the past without incident.

“I thought we were doing both a favor,” O’Connor said. “Boy, were we wrong.”

On Sept. 6, Jacobson, received a call from Helen Volshonok - a Manhattan resident who volunteers for Another Chance 4 Horses, a rescue, rehabilitation and placement facility in Bernville, Pa. - notifying him that Toque was found at auction in New Holland, a small town in Lancaster County in south-central Pennsylvania.

“In the case of Toque he did come into action right away when made aware of the situation,” Volshonok told Daily Racing Form. “He did seem to be worried about Toque when I called him. He should have come up with a better plan for him, absolutely. Maybe that’s something he should think about.”

After reaching out to O’Connor, Jacobson authorized her to buy Toque for $580 to get the horse out of the sale. On Sept. 9, the horse was picked up at New Holland and sent to another farm in Pennsylvania for a week. On Sept. 16, Toque was vanned to Mil-Ridge Farm in Calverton, N.Y., where Jacobson sends many of his horses that are getting time off.

Robin Gibbs, who operates Mil-Ridge Farm, said when Toque arrived, he had a high fever. Gibbs said that Toque was treated with penicillin and Banamine but the fever did not go down. She contacted veterinarian Dr. Camillo Sierra, who on Sept. 17 said the horse needed to be euthanized. Sierra contacted Jacobson to tell him that’s what needed to be done.

“He was unable to eat, his throat was really bad and he wasn’t responding [to medication],” Gibbs said. “He was so sick and wouldn’t come out of it.”

Sierra was hospitalized and unavailable for comment.

Toque, who began his career with trainer Peter Pugh for owner/breeder Happy Hill Farm, won 10 races from 30 starts and earned $176,996.

The New York stewards were made aware of Toque’s situation by NYRA chief examining vet Anthony Verderosa as well as through social media, where many made derogatory comments about Jacobson and his practices.

“When it’s in the best interest of the horse I retire them, whether they’re 2 or 12,” Jacobson said. “I’m not batting 1,000, but my average is way up there.”

Corrections: An earlier version of this article misstated the type of facility Toque was rescued from. He was found at an auction for horses bound for slaughter, not at a slaughterhouse. Also, the New York farm where Toque was sent is Mil-Ridge, not Mill Ridge.