05/23/2012 4:39PM

New York fires back at Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation


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.”

chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
OK, Schneiderman... Who fed, watered off and ran stalls this morning?
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
This just smells like a witch hunt by a bunch of bureaucrats out to make a name for themselves during an election year. The TRF has said in a response that some of the tactics used by the investigators were things like taking photos of very old horses or horses in special circumstances who are being cared for in every possible way. Some very old horses look emaciated. I trust far more the TRF who day in and day out work to benefit our equine retirees than I do a bunch ambulance chasing politicos.
William Tuffey More than 1 year ago
I have been following the NTRF for years. Too many reports over too many years. They can't all be wrong. I saw too many things when I owned racehorses. These magnificent animals give us everything they have, they don't know how to stop. They have too much heart. At the very least we owe them a home and training for a 2nd career. Too many people with different agendas on that board to get anything done. I know I took them out of my will. Looking for another wotthy organization that saves horses.
Brigitte de Saint Phalle More than 1 year ago
The case belongs in court, not here on a blog being judged based on disputed allegations. The state dismisses the vet reports because TRF employs them. Are the whole lot corrupt? OK, then the fact that the State wants control of TRF and their endowment should be factored in, too, along with the motives of the state's own witnesses. The case belongs in court. The NY Times published a big front page article indicting the TRF. TRF claims they never checked the data given to them by the State. Could that be true? You hope not because the article mobilized public opinion against the TRF and they haven't recovered. I was shocked, personally, never thought to question it. But the NY Times front page indictment of Thoroughbred racing, based on anecdotal evidence and pictures of Quarter Horse racing in New Mexico plus data from both Tbred and QH racing derived from their own interpretation of charts is, as Andy Beyer said, dishonest. It certainly is misleading. So I'm open to thinking the NY Times TRF article is no better.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
So let's get on with it... These animals need care? Give the animals care. I'm sure all the attorneys "working" this case are doing so, pro bono...
Frank More than 1 year ago
Get these bad people out at TRF -- I dont believe any of them -- they neglected horses and stole millions -- they should all go to jail!
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that i havent been following this. But if they have stole millions why arent they being charged with embezzlement?