UPDATED: Trainer Beattie denies cheating allegations; FBI probing Penn National
Stephanie Beattie, leading trainer at Penn National and president of the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, came out swinging against allegations made by a former boyfriend and now rival trainer, David Wells, that horses in her care were administered electric shocks before races, making them run faster when the shocks were simulated again during a race. Wells testified to that effect before a grand jury in Dauphin County, Pa., investigating activities at Penn National involving the doping of horses and possible cash-for-stalls behavior in the racing office.
The grand jury investigation, which began after jockeys boycotted races in which horses owned by Michael Gill were entered at Penn National, concluded last month with the criminal indictment of one of Gill's former trainers, Darrel Delahoussaye, and recommendations, among other things, that the Pennsylvania Racing Commission look into whether another Gill trainer, Anthony Adamo, and Beattie should continue to be licensed.
The Paulick Report has also learned that while the grand jury investigation may be over, agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation are now looking into several matters at Penn National and have begun conducting interviews with individuals.
“It's insulting to have my name mentioned in the same sentence as him,” Beattie said of Adamo. “And it's all because of a jealous ex-boyfriend. He (Wells) was with me for nine years, and nothing was ever wrong then. I don't know what he's talking about. This is a total lie. A total lie.
“You know, he beat me up twice – he was arrested last year as you reported – and now, all of a sudden, I'm called a cheater by him. It is insulting. I've worked hard my whole career, and I've done a good job.”
Wells said he has never been convicted of assaulting Beattie.
The grand jury report quotes Wells as saying that exercise riders Sammy Colon and Steve Capeles, along with groom Victor Gonzalez would administer the shocks. “According to Wells,” the report says, “Beattie admitted to him on several occasions that she knew that these employees shocked the horses and that is why the horses run so well.”
“Last year, when we started splitting things up, he took almost every owner except Donald Brown,” Beattie said. “He told owners all kinds of stuff. I went from 80 horses down to about 30, and couldn't keep all my employees. I didn't have room for Sammy Colon, but you know what? He worked for David Wells up until December of last year. Wells said Sammy did something illegal, but he let Sammy work for him.”
Wells ranks ninth in the Penn National standings, with 30 wins from 135 starts. He is also trainer of Rapid Redux, a claiming horse who has won 15 consecutive races at seven different tracks dating back to December. Beattie has won 68 of 241 races at Penn National for a strike rate of 28%.
“The racing commission already talked with a bunch of my grooms about four months ago, and also called in my assistant, each for over two hours,” Beattie said. “I told everyone to go in, tell the truth, and don't lie. I'm not worried.”
The grand jury also recommended the Pennsylvania Racing Commission look at the license of Adamo, who was Gill's racing manager and one of his trainers in 2009-10. Adamo, according to the grand jury report, refused to answer questions under oath, invoking his privilege against self-incrimination.
According to testimony, the alleged ringleader of the illegal activity involving Gill's horses was the owner's farm trainer, Cole Norman, who was not eligible to obtain a license because of a felony conviction for negligent homicide, in connection with a fatal automobile accident while he was under the influence of drugs. Jesse Benitez, an assistant trainer at Gill's Elk Creek Ranch, said he observed Norman preparing the so-called milk shakes that accompanied horses vanning from the farm to Penn National. Ronald Bocanegra, a groom at the farm, said he was operating at the direction of Norman when he would administer the milk shakes to horses racing at Penn National. Milk shakes, or bicarbonate loading, are designed to reduce lactic acid building and prevent horses from tiring.
Delahoussaye, in a plea agreement, has been put on six months probation and will give up his license to ever train horses in Pennsylvania after being charged with illegally administering drugs to horses and possession of prohibited substances, including the powerful pain killer snake venom. He will be eligible for licensing outside of Pennsylvania.
The grand jury report also recommended that the state's Department of Agriculture or General Assembly give the Pennsylvania Racing Commission the authority to regulate and inspect off-site training facilities, such as Gill's former operation at Elk Creek Ranch. “Trainers and other personnel involved with the race horses at such sites should be subject to licensing to the same extent that personnel at the race tracks are required to be licensed,” the report said.
Finally, the grand jury recommends the Racing Commission investigate the activities of Penn National's racing office employees and require those employees to executive sworn statements each year verifying they have not accepted anything of value from an owner or trainer.
Sources said the FBI may be looking into several matters, including racing office activities, doping of horses, as well as the 2009 Pennsylvania HBPA election of officers.
UPDATE: Todd Mostoller, executive director of the Pennsylvania HBPA said the “innuendo is ridiculous” that there could have been any irregularities in regards to the 2009 HBPA election in which Beattie narrowly won the office of president over Tim Shea (by five votes of 700 ballots mailed, according to Mostoller). “I can assure you with 120% confidence there was no wrongdoing,” said Mostoller.
UPDATE 2: Lisa Myers, with the CPA and consulting firm Boyer and Ritter that oversaw the 2009 Pennsylvania HBPA election, told the Paulick Report that “there was no sign of similar signatures, and nothing led me to believe that this was a fixed election, that someone went to an extreme. It did just not appear that way at all.” Myers said ballots were not mailed by Boyer and Ritter but by the HBPA office. There were approximately 2,000 ballts sent out and 750 received, according to Myers. “I was the only one allowed to pick them up from the post office and bring them back to our office,” she said. “I had a team of individuals who opened the envelopes, checked the postmarks, check to see that the postmark was within a reasonable vicinity (of where the HBPA lived), and then enter the votes into a database. Todd Mostoller was not involved in the process at all, and we didn't have a horse in the race.” Myers said her firm has no relationship to anyone on the HBPA board and none of its employees are involved in racing in any way. She said the ballots were kept for a year following the election, but that “I can't tell you that I have the ballots any longer.”