07/22/2011 11:39AM

Presque Isle Downs: Ness fined for running wrong horse in maiden race


Trainer Jamie Ness has been fined $1,000 by the stewards at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., for entering the wrong horse in a maiden special weight race on July 13, in a case of mistaken identity that could lead to further sanctions in both Pennsylvania and Delaware, where the mix-up was discovered.

Ness entered an unraced 2-year-old named Rome Is Freezing in the Presque Isle Downs race, but the horse he shipped to Presque Isle Downs from Delaware Park was actually an unraced 2-year-old named Rapid Rampage, according to Ness and racing officials. The horse identifier at Presque Isle, Johnny Perez, failed to determine that the horse in the paddock was not the horse that was entered, and the horse went on to finish fourth in the five-horse field, earning $1,250.

Both horses are bay, and though records show that Rome Is Freezing is a gelding and Rapid Rampage is a colt, both horses have been castrated, according to Ness.

Ness said that the two horses were among a batch of 10 2-year-olds he received from Florida earlier this summer. He said that the two may have been placed in each other’s stalls because of their physical similarities. He said the switch was entirely accidental and that he accepted his fine.

“I’m responsible for bringing the wrong horse to the paddock,” Ness said. “After that, it’s unfortunate the horse identifier did not catch it.”

Ness did not travel with the horse. He said his assistant who went to Presque Isle with the horse told him that the identifier at Presque Isle had flipped the horse’s lip in the paddock but did not notice that the lip tattoo was for the wrong horse.

Perez has been suspended by Presque Isle Downs and is facing sanctions from both the track and the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Racing Commission, according to the commission’s executive secretary, Daniel Tufano.

“I don’t think anyone’s denying the circumstances of what happened,” Tufano said. “You would like to think that there are procedures in place to prevent such an occurrence.”

The mix-up was caught by state veterinarians at Delaware Park on Tuesday after Ness entered Rapid Rampage in a maiden special weight race. The veterinarians discovered then that the horse was actually Rome Is Freezing, leading them back to the July 13 race at Presque Isle Downs. The horse was not allowed to start.

John Wayne, executive director of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission, said that Ness will need to appear before the Delaware Park stewards to face possible sanctions relating to the mix-up.

“Not to be investigator, judge, and jury at this point in the inquiry, but I’ve already told Mr. Ness that this is a mistake that should not happen,” Wayne said.

One week after the wrong horse started, Ness said that he was relieved that the horse finished fourth in a race without superfecta wagering, since payoffs to bettors were not affected. “It’s the first time in my life I’m glad a horse didn’t run good,” Ness said.