03/22/2007 11:00PM

Sales task force expanding to other breeds


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Sales Integrity Task Force, which hammered out a nonbinding code of ethics for the bloodstock industry in 2004, is assembling a new team to tackle the issue of ownership disclosure again. And this time, the panel likely will include members from outside the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry.

"It will be a little bit different, first and foremost with the inclusion of the other breeds," said Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, which oversees the task force. "We're working on having other disciplines included as well, whether it be the hunter-jumpers, Saddlebreds, Standardbreds, Quarter Horses, or others. We're working on that and reaching out to people to have more representation, and we'll have a larger group when we include those other breeds and disciplines."

That expansion has come about partly due to a law enacted in Kentucky last year that makes dual agency in horse deals worth $10,000 or more a crime, regardless of the horse's breed. Thoroughbred owner and breeder Jess Jackson lobbied hard for that legislation, and, through his Horse Owners Protective Association, he has pushed for inclusion of other breeds and disciplines in the ethics code process.

"The way the legislation was written it includes all horses in Kentucky," Metzger said. "It can't just be singled out for the Thoroughbred industry. Anything that makes the horse industry healthy and vibrant in Kentucky should include the other breeds as well."

Metzger said he expects the new panel to number between 22 and 35 members, with the membership finalized within a week or 10 days. The task force's first meeting is set for early May.

One non-racing person who has asked to be included on the task force is Debbie Hanson, a pony owner who became a sales integrity activist after successfully suing two agents in the hunter-jumper business.

Hanson said she welcomes laws like the so-called Jackson law in Kentucky, which she feels gives victims extra clout when they approach attorneys to take on cases alleging horse sale fraud. Hanson acknowledges that fraud in general is often covered by a state's laws, but she said, in pursuing her case, she found few attorneys willing to prosecute for the relatively small amounts that can be involved in average equine transactions. The Kentucky law contains a provision that awards attorneys' fees and triple damages in successful suits, and that, Hanson said, will get victims more attention and help in prosecuting cases.

"When that bill passed there was a little roar of cheers on the East Coast here," Hanson said of the Kentucky law's reception in the hunter-jumper community. "My personal opinion is that we can't have too many laws like that on the books. There cannot be enough transparency in horse sales, as far as I'm concerned."

Hanson said she hopes that her involvement in the Sales Integrity Task Force will promote a larger cooperation across breeds and disciplines to tackle sales integrity issues wherever they need addressing.

"I think that's the best way to attack a problem that is prominent in the horse industry," she said. "You'll never eradicate all the illegal dealings, but I think it's important for the horse industry as a whole to stick together and say, 'This isn't just in the racing industry or in the Thoroughbred industry.' It happens in the Arabian world and the hunter-jumpers and in Western riding. There's so much money involved in the sale of these animals that we need to attack it as an industry problem."

Shake You Down retired at age 9

Shake You Down, a Grade 2-winning millionaire who was third in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint, has been retired from racing and has been given to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Ocala, Fla. He was trained by Scott Lake.

"We didn't think he could any longer win at a decent claiming level, so we thought it was best to retire him," said owner Robert Cole. "We were looking out for the horse. I thought he could still win races, but Scott was uncomfortable running him again."

A popular 9-year-old gelding, Shake You Down made 65 starts, winning 22 and earning $1,442,014. His six stakes victories included the Grade 2 True North and the Grade 3 Smile Sprint, Grade 3 Gravesend, and Grade 3 Bold Ruler handicaps in 2003, and the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap in 2004.

"He looks great," said John Evans, manager of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation branch at the Marion County Correctional Facility in Ocala, and also a vocational teacher there. "We're turning him out in a round pen now, which we'll do for a couple of weeks, and then we'll put him in a one-acre paddock."

The Florida-bred Shake You Down will have a paddock between two other noteworthy Florida-breds: statebred champions Val's Prince, a multiple Grade 1 winner, and Carterista, a multiple Grade 3 winner.