09/14/2011 12:42PM

Turfway: Vet scratch sparks boycott from top trainer Woodard


A dispute between Dr. Bryce Peckham, the chief racing veterinarian in Kentucky, and the massive stable run by owner Billy Hays and trainer Joe Woodard led to multiple scratches at Turfway Park last week amid the possibility that Hays and Woodard may continue an indefinite boycott of the circuit.

According to Kentucky chief steward John Veitch, Hays and Woodard both engaged Peckham last week in heated phone conversations when Peckham scratched one of the stable’s horses prior to a race at Turfway. The exchanges were so unpleasant that Hays, through his attorney, Don Cox, ordered all nine of his scheduled starters Friday and Saturday at Turfway scratched from their races. Hays had no horses entered Sunday, the most recent day of racing at the Florence, Ky., track.

Hays and Woodard complained to Veitch that they felt Peckham was treating them unfairly, and they requested a meeting to attempt to defuse the situation. As of Wednesday morning, such a meeting had yet to be held, although Veitch said he was hopeful that it would happen. In the meantime, Hays and Woodard had no horses entered for the Thursday card at Turfway but five on the Friday evening program.

“We know that our business is important to Turfway, and we agreed to put horses in for Friday in case we can reach some sort of resolution,” said Woodard, who otherwise declined further comment.

The dispute between Peckham and Woodard stems from the scratch of a horse scheduled to run Friday evening at Turfway during routine pre-race veterinary inspections that morning at the track, but traces its origins to other incidents, according to Woodard. Dr. Mary Scollay, who oversees Peckham in her position as equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said the horse in question was “clearly lame” and that she does not perceive a feud to exist between Peckham and any horsemen.

“I understand there will be a meeting, and for us to make any further comment on the matter would not be appropriate at this time,” said Scollay.

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 Tuesday, the stable also is second this year, again to Midwest, with 204 wins. The stable consists of nearly 200 horses, 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.

A complaint against Peckham was filed to the commission in late March by owner Daniel Pitzo III but “has not been pursued,” according to Veitch, who added that the complaint “is the only one, to my recollection,” formally filed against Peckham since he was hired as the chief state veterinarian in February 2009. Peckham earned his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Kansas State University in 1988.