02/18/2016 4:26PM

Stallion Law Enforcement returns to training

Barbara D. Livingston
Law Enforcement, a four-time New York-bred stakes winner who last raced in August 2012, has been returned to training at Fonner Park.

Law Enforcement, an 11-year old son of Posse who stood the last three seasons at stud in Minnesota, returned to the work tab Tuesday at Fonner Park, breezing a bullet three furlongs in 37.20 seconds.

It was such an unexpected sight for the Fonner Park clocker that the track’s racing office called trainer Troy Bethke to make sure they had the right horse.

“They said, ‘The only one we could find was an 11-year-old stallion.’ ” Bethke recalled. “I said, ‘No, that’s him.’ ”

The breeze was a testing of the waters for Law Enforcement, a four-time New York-bred stakes winner who last raced in August 2012, to help Bethke and owner David O. Hansen of Quintana Farm determine whether the horse is suitable to race or return to stud.

Both owner and trainer said they were pleased with the first steps, but decisions as to where, when, or at what level the horse might race were a long way off.

“My main concern is the horse,” Hansen said. “He’s a neat animal, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to try to hurt the horse in any way, shape, or form. Troy’s a very good trainer, one of the best horsemen in the country. He’s been bringing this guy along really slow.”

Bethke has saddled 540 winners from 5,021 runners since 1987 for earnings of $5,221,727. The majority of his 18 career stakes wins have come at Canterbury Park, highlighted by the $60,000 Northern Lights Futurity, won by Bet Your Boots in 2009.

Law Enforcement was purchased by Hansen last year following the death of original owner and breeder Cam Casby. He covered seven mares for Hansen in 2015 and had 19 live foals from 31 mares bred combined over his first two seasons at stud, standing his entire career at Dove Hill Farm in New Prague, Minn.

Prior to his stallion career, Law Enforcement won 6 of 30 starts for $458,638 racing for trainer Mark Hennig. He won New York-bred stakes at all four of the state’s Thoroughbred venues, highlighted by the $100,000 Aspirant Stakes at Finger Lakes.

Hansen and Bethke both acknowledged that their decision to give Law Enforcement another try at the races would be met with criticism but noted that the horse has seen a sea change in attitude since returning to training.

Hansen “keeps telling me that everybody’s going to think we’re crazy, and I say, ‘Why?’ ” Bethke said. “As far as I know, he’s a sound horse, and he looks great, and is training good, and he loves it. He loves working. He likes going out and having a job. They did have some issues with him at the farm when he wasn’t doing anything. He was meaner than a rattlesnake, so I think he just needs a job.”

Hansen called it a “Jekyll and Hyde” transformation, both in appearance in demeanor.

“The big thing is, I don’t remember seeing the horse as happy as he is right now,” Hansen said. “If I feel that he can run and be a credit to himself, we’ll do it. If not, he’s just had a nice experience, he’s happy and healthy, and can go back to his job again.”

Nebraska state regulations prohibit horses 12 years old and older from entering or starting without special permission from the state’s racing commission and horsemen’s association, giving Law Enforcement at least two years of eligibility in that state. In Minnesota – the owner’s and trainer’s home state – horses can run up to age 14.

Wayne Anderson, Fonner Park’s assistant racing secretary, added that horses also are required to turn in two credible works before being eligible to start, of which Law Enforcement already has one, and that the horse would have to pass the standard state veterinarian’s exam, similar to any runner at the track.

With the first breeze behind him, Bethke said he had a clearer picture of the horse’s road map going forward, but he did not plan to deviate from his slow and steady pace in bringing him back to the races.\

“The deciding factors will be when we stretch him out a little farther and how he handles the distance better, but that was pretty easy for him, I do have to say,” Bethke said. “He galloped out good and came back nice after the workout, but it is a long time being off.”