NEW YORK (AP) - The incidents that triggered investigations into trainer Jeff Mullins for illegally administering a race-day medication in a security barn at Aqueduct and owner-breeder Ernie Paragallo for the treatment of horses at his farm are "very troubling," an industry official said Wednesday.
The New York State Wagering and Racing Board opened separate investigations into Mullins and Paragallo this week. What, if any, penalties are handed down have yet to be decided.
"Two recent incidents in New York are very troubling to the hundreds of thousands of responsible individuals who derive their livelihood from thoroughbred breeding and racing and the millions of customers who participate in our game," Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said in a statement.
Mullins admitted giving his horse Gato Go Win a medication in the security barn before the Bay Shore Stakes on April 4, but has said he was unaware he was doing anything wrong.
Stewards scratched the horse after security officials saw Mullins give the horse a dose of an over-the-counter medication described as a cough syrup. New York racing rules prohibit giving any medication other than Lasix to a horse in the race-day security barn. Dose syringes aren't allowed either, and that's what Mullins used to administer the medication.
Mullins trains I Want Revenge, an early favorite for the May 2 Kentucky Derby who won the Wood Memorial the same day.
"In the case of trainer Jeff Mullins, regardless of how this incident is ultimately adjudicated, there is no excuse for not knowing or abiding by the New York rules of racing," Waldrop said.
Paragallo's Center Brook Farm in Climax, N.Y., is being looked into after seven of his horses were discovered at a livestock auction in New York last week. The horses, according to welfare organizations, were malnourished and were awaiting shipment to a slaughterhouse.
The groups claim another 13 horses owned by Paragallo were sent to slaughter.
"In the case of owner Ernie Paragallo, the alleged abdication of responsibility for the welfare of one's horses, either directly or indirectly, is unacceptable," Waldrop said.
"In both instances, should the charges prove true, authorities should move swiftly to impose the most severe penalties applicable under the circumstances."
New York state police and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals entered Paragallo's farm Wednesday with veterinarians and found about 40 horses that were in poor shape.
"It's really bad," Ron Perez, president of the Humane Society/S.P.C.A. for Columbia and Greene counties, told the New York Times. "It's the worst I've ever seen in a thoroughbred situation."
On Tuesday the board issued a subpoena that will require Paragallo to answer questions about the care of his horses. He was not at the farm Wednesday, the Times said.
Longtime breeder Arthur Hancock, who testified before Congress last year on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing, condemned the incidents.
"Our livelihood depends upon the public perception of our industry," he said Thursday in Lexington, Ky. "Anything that happens that takes away from that good, positive energy is killing our livelihood, so I'm extremely disappointed."
The Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills Phipps said in a statement the group supports and assists law enforcement agencies, the courts and racing officials in the investigation of animal cruelty.
"The Jockey Club maintains a long-held conviction that owners are responsible and should be held accountable for the care, well-being and humane treatment of their thoroughbred horses," Phipps said.