04/11/2005 11:00PM

Wygod denies violating California board rules

Benoit & Associates
Marty Wygod faces a possible suspension of his owner's license.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Horse owner Marty Wygod maintained his innocence Tuesday, one day after the California Horse Racing Board filed a formal complaint alleging that Wygod violated three rules relating to his filly Sweet Catomine, who finished fifth as the even-money favorite Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby.

"I've done absolutely nothing wrong," Wygod said Tuesday. "I'm hopeful that the horse racing board will review what's going on and take steps to correct the allegations that have been made. That's all I can say right now."

An administrative hearing with stewards Dennis Nevin, Tom Ward, and Pete Pedersen is scheduled for April 23. According to the complaint, the stewards can suspend Wygod's owner's license, fine him, or exclude him from state racetracks.

The board alleges that Wygod violated board rules by covertly shipping Sweet Catomine from Santa Anita to an equine medical clinic for therapeutic treatment days before the derby, and by making misleading statements before and after Sweet Catomine ran.

The complaint alleges that Wygod violated a rule concerning the records of Sweet Catomine shipping in and out of Santa Anita. The complaint also alleges that Wygod made misleading statements about the filly that were detrimental to racing. Finally, the complaint alleges that Wygod violated a rule concerning the rules of horse racing that could result in the suspension of his owner's license.

Julio Canani, the trainer of Sweet Catomine, was not named in the complaint. According to board spokesman Mike Marten, a board review found Canani blameless. The review, conducted by board investigator Christopher Loop, determined that Canani did not violate any racing rules, nor was he party to the shipping of Sweet Catomine from Santa Anita to Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Clinic for oxygenation treatment.

"I did not have anything to do with it," Canani said. "[Wygod] wanted to send her over there, and he talked to the veterinarian. I didn't talk to anybody."

Marten said: "Everyone that Loop spoke with - vets, farm mangers, security people, grooms - there was no individual that implicated Canani in any way. None of the sworn or written testimony received by Loop pointed toward Canani."

According to Canani, Sweet Catomine bled a 1 on a scale of 5 on April 3 in her final work before the Santa Anita Derby. On April 5, the day before the post-position draw for the derby, Canani said that she had "jogged one mile" on the 5th and that "everything is kosher." In fact, Sweet Catomine was 140 miles away from Santa Anita, receiving treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

"The only bad thing that I did, the only regret I have . . . is that," Canani said. "I hope the mare comes back and keeps running good."

The only other person named in the complaint was Dean Kerkhoff, a licensed vendor employed by Racehorse Transport. The board complaint alleges that Kerkhoff falsely identified Sweet Catomine as a "pony" when he shipped her from Santa Anita the morning of April 4, and when he returned her to the Canani barn on the evening of April 5.

Sweet Catomine and the five other Wygod horses that had been trained by Canani have been transferred to John Shirreffs at Hollywood Park. In addition to Sweet Catomine, they are Wooden Ticket, Sylvan Hill, Lifestream, Tradition Rocks, and one unnamed horse.

Wygod said he wants to point Sweet Catomine to the major stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont in the spring and summer and the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga in August

"There is a very strong chance she will be [based] on the East Coast, if that's where she will be running on a continuous basis," he said. "That's very early thinking."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen