Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission executive director Sarah Crane denied Aug. 16 a request from owner/trainer Alison Escobar to stay a 60-day suspension he received from state stewards for continuing to train a horse that had been on multiple Vet's Lists at other racetracks due to a severe tendon injury.
Crane outlined in a letter to Escobar that his request was denied because the appeal application did not demonstrate evidence he would be irreparably harmed if the stay was not granted; the appeal application and communications with the commission suggested that the documentation and notarization were falsified; and, that granting the stay would "negatively affect the public perception and integrity of racing."
Escobar is appealing the commission's sanctions against him, and a hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 13 at the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's office in Wilmington. His suspension is scheduled to begin Aug. 19 and run through Oct. 17.
Escobar was fined $2,500 along with his suspension Aug. 12 for the improper and inhumane treatment of Ashiham, a 5-year-old son of Tapit . DTRC safety steward Eric Coatrieux observed Ashiham walking lame on Delaware Park's main track Aug. 3 with a "significantly bowed left tendon." DTRC veterinarian Dr. Annie Renzetti inspected Ashiham Aug. 3 and reported the horse had a lameness score of 4 on a scale of 5 and that his left front flexor tendon was warm and sore on palpation, according the DTRC ruling against Escobar. The horse was immediately put on the Vet's List and required to undergo diagnostic testing, including ultrasound, and be put on stall rest until he can be re-evaluated by commission veterinarians.
Prior to being shipped to Delaware Park, Ashiham was scratched from an April 21 race at Tampa Bay Downs by the racetrack vet, who observed the horse was lame and had "heat in the left front flexor tendon." The horse was put on the Vet's List. Ashiham was later observed walking lame at Palm Meadows Training Center after a June 9 work and put on the Vet's List at Gulfstream Park. Gulfstream's chief regulatory veterinarian, Dr. Carlos Aponte, required an ultrasound examination to be done before the horse could be scheduled for any future works. Records indicate an ultrasound examination had not been conducted.
Contacted through longtime client Raphy Suarez, Escobar told BloodHorse that Ashiham did have an issue with his tendon but that the horse was being treated.
"He had an issue like all racehorses have issues," Suarez said. "He had a horse in Puerto Rico with a tendon injury. He fixed that and the horse went on to win a stakes. They are trying to make it look like he didn't care for the horse, but that is not true."
Escobar insisted the horse did not bow his tendon until after he had shipped to Delaware Park.
"The horse had a treatable injury. He knows how to work with horses with problems and win with them. With this horse it didn't work out," Suarez said. "He made a misjudgment and the horse got hurt, but to go from that to say animal cruelty is a huge step. He cares about his horses."
Escobar said through Suarez that Ashiham has been retired and will enter stud next year in Florida.
If Escobar's suspension is upheld, he will be required to pass a DTRC Trainer's Test before he can be reinstated.