Owner/trainer Burton Sipp, who has come under fire from Thoroughbred aftercare and animal rights groups over equine welfare concerns, has been indefinitely suspended by track operator Churchill Downs Inc., according to Tonya Abeln, vice president of corporate communications at CDI.
The suspension, initiated Aug. 15, applies strictly to Churchill Downs Inc. properties, including Presque Isle Downs, where Sipp has regularly competed this year. Additionally, he has often run horses at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort, which has different ownership.
Abeln said Sipp was notified Monday, and his two horses that were entered to race were scratched.
CDI's action followed an online petition being circulated calling for his banishment from racing.
Sipp first competed in racing from 1968-1994, according to Equibase records, before re-appearing in 2004. Accused of insurance fraud in 1983 after a group of his horses died, an accusation he denied, he ultimately pled guilty to the lesser charge of witness tampering in 1984.
During his time away from racing, he opened Animal Kingdom, an exotic zoo in Springfield, N.J.
He currently trains a stable of largely lower-level claiming horses, though some tracks and regulators have taken steps to restrict his participation over the years.
Abeln said CDI's decision was made in the interest of safety and integrity over "our concern of his treatment of his horses."
"I know there still is a lot that is being investigated, I'm told," she said. "It will just be re-evaluated on an ongoing basis."