09/17/2011 9:41AM

Turfway Park: Leading stable departs for Penn National as feud with state vet continues

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The 25-horse stable owned by Billy Hays and trained by Joe Woodard vacated Turfway Park on Saturday morning after they scratched all six horses they had entered in five races Friday night at the Florence, Ky., track in their escalating dispute with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinary staff.

Turfway president Bob Elliston said he requested the stable to leave the premises shortly before the start of the evening card after he learned of the scratches. Hays and Woodard also scratched their previous nine scheduled starters last week at Turfway.

Elliston said he asked the Turfway stewards “to impose the appropriate penalties for their breaking the rules” of scratching their horses without just cause and to “have the case fully adjudicated.”

Woodard said Saturday morning he was sending the string of horses to Penn National and that he was unable to comment further because of the legal implications.

Hays and Woodard say they have not been treated fairly by Dr. Bryce Peckham, the chief racing veterinarian in Kentucky. While further legal maneuvering can be expected as this case unfolds, Elliston said: “Turfway Park has nothing to do with their beef with the state vet.”

The dispute between Peckham and Woodard stems from the scratch of a horse scheduled to run Sept. 9 at Turfway during routine pre-race veterinary inspections that morning at the track, but traces its origins to other incidents, Woodard said earlier this week.

Hays, a Louisville car dealer whose horses also race in the name of his wife Donna and son Justin, had the second-most wins last year in North America with 258, trailing only Midwest Thoroughbreds. Through Friday, the stable also is second this year, again to Midwest, with 204 wins. In all, the stable consists of nearly 200 horses, with their primary base at the Skylight training center near Louisville, according to Woodard.

Hays and Woodard led their respective categories at the 2010 fall meet at Turfway, and besides campaigning year-round in Kentucky, they are the perennial leading owner and trainer at Beulah Park and River Downs in Ohio.