Thomas: A Tragedy That Could Have Been Avoided

by | 06.24.2014 | 7:09pm
Unknown Road, a promising son of Bernardini, had his life cut short after allegedly being administered a tainted compounded medication

There must be a thousand and one ways to eliminate fans and owners from the Thoroughbred industry. One of the most unconscionable of those scenarios has happened to my partner, Dennis Narlinger, of JMJ Racing Stables.

JMJ Racing Stables is a huge participant in the Thoroughbred game. They are my partners in Sequel Stallions New York, the premier stallion farm in the state. They are breeders. They are racers. They are buyers. They support their horses and their stallions. A person couldn't ask for a better associate.

Just as one example of their support, they purchased a colt by our stallion, Freud, at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton New York Preferred Sale for $100,000. Excited about their prospect, they named this promising colt Free Association, a good name for a stakes winner. Woefully, however, this story does not have a happy ending.

JMJ Racing stables has filed a lawsuit against Wickliffe Veterinary Pharmacy alleging that with careless disregard for the health and welfare of the horses and the people who take care of the horses, Wickliffe ignored a warning from the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Lab prior to April 1 when two horses in Kentucky died from an improperly formulated and toxic compound in March. Allegedly, they shipped the same improperly compounded medicine to Ocala, Fla., where the poisonous overdoses were given to Mr. Narlinger's horses on May 5.

Free Association along with seven other racehorses in Ocala were allegedly administered the compounded medication provided by Wickliffe Veterinary Pharmacy. It took four hours for Free Association to die after seizing and throwing himself repeatedly on the ground as veterinarians and staff tried futilely to save him.

JMJ Racing Stables is alleging in its lawsuit that this medication ultimately will be confirmed by the FDA to be the cause of death. JMJ Racing Stables owned four of the eight horses affected in Ocala. One of them, Unknown Road, was named by Thoroughbred Daily News a TDN Rising Star. The son of Bernardini had won his second start by nearly 12 lengths.

This horse has since died an extremely painful death secondary to laminitis, resulting from huge volumes of medication given to counteract the seizures caused by toxic medication, once again purported to be the same medication supplied by Wickliffe. His value could have been phenomenal. The other two are a New York-bred that was just about to be sent to the races and a homebred out of one of Dennis Narlinger's favorite stakes-winning mares, Sunday Geisha. Although they are recovering, their racing careers are doubtful.

No one can blame Dennis Narlinger for being upset about this situation. But what is absolutely deplorable and inexcusable is that this didn't have to happen!

The lawsuit asserts that no one in the veterinary community was notified of any misformulation in the compound. No one knew to be on the lookout. There was no announcement to even a possibility of an improper calculation. An FDA alert was posted on May 15 and they are currently investigating these adverse events.

The equine community needs to be able to trust the pharmacies that provide our medicine. If these accusations are affirmed, Wickliffe Veterinary Pharmacy left us exposed to this catastrophy, in my opinion, because of greediness and trying not to damage their own company.

In his final Op/Ed in the Thoroughbred Daily News on Nov. 5, 2012, on his way out of the business, former leading commercial breeder Rob Whiteley warned, “There are two types of people in the business: stakeholders and those who make a living off of stakeholders. And within each group, there are two more groups: those who actively work to improve the industry and those who operate from narrowly focused, selfish interests without regard for the long-term welfare of the business or our sport. Too few participants understand the necessity of working cooperatively, pro-actively and with a shared vision to help grow the business for everyone.”

Mr. Whiteley could not have been more on point. We can't let this sort of thing happen. We just can't afford to lose more of the good guys!

Becky Thomas was New York Breeder of the Year in 2008 and owns Sequel Stallions in Hudson, N.Y.

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