09/25/2008 12:00AM

Owner ruled off; violated slaughter ban


The zero-tolerance policy at Suffolk Downs that rules off horsemen who send runners at the end of their careers to slaughter has been tested for the first time, with an unidentified horse owner no longer allowed on Suffolk's property following the discovery of two horses at a known slaughter auction in New Jersey.

The discovery came within days of Commentator's 14-length victory in last week's Massachusetts Handicap. Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, outspoken in the anti-slaughter movement, noted the track's policy as part of the reason he and owner Tracy Farmer sent the multiple Grade 1 winner to Suffolk for the Mass Cap.

Suffolk officials were alerted by horse-rescue activists that a gelding, Dunemoor, who had been working at Suffolk Downs but did not race there, was in a pen slated to be shipped to a foreign slaughterhouse.

Sam Elliott, the track's vice president of racing, on behalf of the track purchased the gelding and another filly named Dahlia Denda, who had raced once at Suffolk but was based at Penn National, at the auction. They were sent to the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund's farm in Walkill, N.Y.

Dunemoor, a 6-year-old gelding by El Amante, was owned by RV Racing Stables and trained by Reuben Monjes in his last race, a sixth-place finish in a $20,000 claimer at Delaware Park in August 2007. He won 3 of 21 starts and earned $62,970.

Dahlia Denda raced for Alvis Lockhart and trainer Gregorio Rivera in a $5,000 maiden claiming race at Suffolk on June 6. She concluded her career by finishing seventh in a $5,000 maiden claimer at Penn National on June 19. Dahlia Denda failed to win in seven lifetime starts.

After investigating the circumstances, no trainers are being sanctioned, but the person who purchased the horses has been "uninvited" to Suffolk, according to Chip Tuttle, Suffolk Downs chief operating officer. When the track announced the policy earlier this year, it stated trainers who were caught sending their horses to slaughter would lose their stalls.

"We believe this was an individual who was not forthright with the trainers he approached about where he would be transporting these two horses," said Tuttle, who would not identify the buyer. "All the horsemen here have been very supportive of the policy. We believe the trainers in this case didn't knowingly allow this to happen."

Cheaper racing circuits have long been places where buyers for slaughter auctions have done considerable business, offering cash for broken-down animals to horsemen who themselves are struggling to get by. Suffolk officials, on behalf of the track's principal shareholder Richard Fields, instituted the policy as a way to aggressively promote adoption and second careers for the track's horses. To that end, those buying for slaughter have been identified.

"We know who they are and they are not allowed to conduct business at Suffolk," Tuttle said. "One buyer also works for a transportation company. He is allowed to bring horses to the track, but he can not leave with any. He tried once and was stopped at the stable gate, and the horses were returned to their stalls."

Commentator's appearance notwithstanding, Suffolk did not set out to score publicity points with the policy.

"We didn't institute this with the hope of recruiting horses," Tuttle said. "This started out as a retirement policy, and it morphed organically. It was an unintended benefit that it appears this policy struck Mr. Farmer and Mr. Zito as worthy of their support."

Legends tour begins

Jockeys Angel Cordero, Pat Day, and Laffit Pincay will be at Suffolk next Wednesday in their first stop on a 10-city tour promoting the Breeders' Cup Legends. Cordero and Day will be among eight Hall of Fame riders coming out of retirement to compete in a race Oct. 18 at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.