05/23/2012 3:39PM

New York fires back at Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

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In its latest legal salvo against the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, the office of New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday filed new documents, including affidavits from current and former TRF employees, to support its allegations that the nation’s largest racehorse retirement charity neglected horses in its care.

The filings in New York’s state Supreme Court were part of Schneiderman’s memorandum of law opposing a TRF motion to dismiss the case. They represent some of the most detailed allegations to date since the TRF first came under fire in March 2011, when the New York Times published an article that prompted the attorney general’s year-long investigation of the Saratoga Springs-based charity. Schneiderman filed suit to remove the TRF’s board of directors earlier this month.

Among the affidavits are statements from Anne Lear, who manages TRF satellite facility Shaffer Farm in Virginia and said: “It is clear to me that horses under TRF’s care at certain other satellite facilities are not being adequately nourished or properly cared for. It appears evident that when the condition of certain horses at other TRF farms becomes dire, TRF transfers them to my farm, which I am proud to say is where their condition can be improved and they can be well taken care of.”

Lear and former TRF herd manager Julie Walawender, in a separate statement, also allege that the TRF delayed eight months in removing horses from the Detweiler Farm in Kentucky. In her affidavit, the veterinarian Stacy Huntington, who examined the facility for the TRF in March 2011, said she found three horses with Henneke body score ratings of 2.5 or lower, a rating that puts them between “thin” and “very thin.”

Diana Pikulski, the TRF’s director of external affairs, said Wednesday that Huntington initially advised TRF that Detweiler Farm would be sufficiently able to care for horses under closer supervision and that it did so under supervision by TRF employee Sara Davenport. The horses ultimately were relocated, Pikulski said, when Davenport became dissatisfied on one of her regular farm visits with the condition of “a small group” in that herd.

“People will testify, and that’s when the truth will come out,” said Pikulski said of the litigation.

Schneiderman’s memorandum also dismisses an earlier TRF filing of general veterinary reports from 19 satellite facilities. “These reports, and their seeming unanimity, are not creditable,” the attorney general’s memorandum said. “They are proffered by farms financially beholden to TRF,” the filing noted.

Tuesday’s filing also included an affidavit from Suzanne Peugeot, who adopted one of her family’s horses, 28-year-old Apres Coup, when the horse’s condition allegedly deteriorated at the TRF’s Wallkill, N.Y., facility, to a Henneke rating of 1, or “poor.” At a new facility, Peugeot stated, the mare had rebounded three months later to a 3.5 rating, or between “thin” and “moderately thin.”

TRF attorney Barry Ostrager, who also is president of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, disputed the attorney general’s allegations in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

Ostrager called the prosecution of the case “an astonishing misallocation of scarce state resources because (a) the evidence shows that substantial numbers of horses in the TRF herd are out living the normal life expectancy of thoroughbred horses by a decade which is proof positive that the TRF herd is receiving proper care as two dozen veterinarian statements attest; (b) although the TRF disputes that there as many as a handful of horses about which there is anecdotal evidence of mistreatment, there are 1,100 other horses in the herd that have been saved by the TRF from slaughter or neglect; and (c) there is simply no precedent for removing honest directors of a charitable organization that have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money and thousands of hours of their time toward a worthwhile charitable endeavor. I would have thought that the AG’s office would have better things to do with its time than persecute this nationally respected charity.”