04/24/2005 11:00PM

Wygod case could lead to changes


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Following a decision by Hollywood Park stewards Saturday to clear racehorse owner Marty Wygod of wrongdoing regarding his actions before Sweet Catomine ran in the Santa Anita Derby, the California Horse Racing Board announced it intends to review its investigation procedures.

During a three-hour hearing on Saturday, Wygod was cleared of CHRB charges that he broke the rules of racing by not being more forthcoming in statements regarding Sweet Catomine's condition before the race and knowingly falsifying paperwork related to her departure from Santa Anita five days before the race to be treated at a clinic. Sweet Catomine had bled in her work before the April 9 Santa Anita Derby and finished fifth in the race.

During the hearing, CHRB investigator Christopher Loop said he did not interview Wygod during a hasty investigation on April 10, a decision he said he regretted.

In a one-page statement released Sunday by the CHRB, Ingrid Fermin, the board's executive director, said she was "disappointed" that Wygod was not interviewed.

"I intend to evaluate our investigative procedures from start to finish," she said. "In that way, licensees and the public will be reassured that cases have been fully investigated and evaluated before any accusations are filed."

When asked Saturday by Wygod's attorney, Richard Kendall, if he got relevant information during the investigation, Loop replied, "Not to my satisfaction."

"My instructions were to file those charges based on the allegations and it would be proven out during the hearing," Loop said.

Saturday, Hollywood Park stewards Dennis Nevin, Pete Pedersen, and Tom Ward dismissed the case against Wygod after Kendall argued that the CHRB did not have evidence that Wygod was responsible for falsifying documents. Sweet Catomine left trainer Julio Canani's stable at 3 a.m. on April 3 and returned the following day, but barn area documents indicated it was a pony who had left the stable.

The allegation of falsifying documents is part of a complaint against van driver Dean Kerkhoff, which will be heard before Hollywood Park stewards this Saturday.

Wygod, a member of the board of directors at Del Mar, said last Saturday that he might end his involvement in racing because of the allegations. He declined to comment when reached by phone on Monday.

Sweet Catomine, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2004, was retired last Wednesday and will be bred to A.P. Indy.