03/02/2017 1:20PM

Trainer Walder withdraws license application


Peter Walder as recently as last year was a high-percentage trainer in south Florida, but the Southern California native has been relegated to the sidelines by his withdrawal of a license application for a “non-racing-related matter,” the trainer said on Thursday.

Walder, who won at a steady 25 percent clip for the last decade, withdrew the license application last September without Florida’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering issuing a denial, according to the trainer and the division. After the application was withdrawn, the horses he trained were turned over to Fernando Abreu, a former assistant to the late Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, and since then, Walder said he has been acting as a “consultant” to Abreu and his owners.

Walder acknowledged that he has maintained a daily presence at Gulfstream Park, where Abreu is based, since the application was withdrawn, but the trainer said he has limited his visits to the frontside of the racetrack. Racing officials at Gulfstream said on Thursday that they have instructed Walder that he cannot go to any restricted areas of the track while unlicensed, according to P.J. Campo, Gulfstream’s director of racing.

“I am the same as anyone else who walks into a racetrack,” Walder said. “I wasn’t suspended. I don’t have any violations hanging over me. Nothing that I am doing is something that I am not supposed to be doing.”

When asked why he withdrew his license application, Walder said: “It’s just a personal matter that is non-racing-related that I am keeping to myself.”

The presence of Walder at Gulfstream and his close relationship with Abreu have similarities to the circumstances surrounding trainer Marcus Vitali, who was ruled off by Gulfstream management last year under suspicion that he was training horses transferred to his assistant after he agreed to a 120-day suspension because of medication violations in 2016.

Campo said that the situations differ because Vitali was serving a suspension when he was ruled off. Licensees who are suspended are typically denied access to racetrack grounds.

“[Walder] has not been permitted in the barn area, he can’t go to any restricted areas,” Campo said. “He’s been told he can’t do that.”

Campo said that Gulfstream has no evidence that Walder has violated those restrictions.

Walder has a relatively clean history in regard to medication violations, but his behavior at tracks has sometimes gotten him into trouble, according to a search of rulings regarding the trainer. Those violations stretch back more than a decade, however.

In July 2005, he was ruled off in New Jersey for the remainder of the year for “making himself obnoxious, using profane language, and displaying unprofessional conduct.” The next year, he was fined $1,000 by the New Jersey Racing Commission for “acts detrimental to racing” after he was asked to respond to “numerous reports from security involving his conduct.” In 2007, the Illinois Racing Board fined him for “use of profanity toward another licensee in a public area.”

Since then, Walder has maintained a prolific win rate while running mostly in south Florida and Maryland. From 2008-16, he won 442 races from 1,794 starts (24.6 percent).

Since taking over Walder’s horses, Abreu has won 17 races from 118 starts (14.4 percent).

Walder said on Thursday that he has not yet determined what path he might take in the future. In response to calls this week from Daily Racing Form, he issued a statement Wednesday saying that “nothing in my personal life affects the sport.”

“As far as coming back to training, it’s not out of the question,” he said in the interview. “I just need to take care of some things and get this behind me.”