Officials with Hollywood Casino at Penn National are investigating whether a leading owner and his bloodstock manager may have violated the Grantville, Pa., track's anti-slaughter policy after a horse that had been stabled at Penn National wound up in a livestock sale and destined for slaughter. The horse has been spared, but the incident has already led to the resignation of a vice president of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association.
Prince Michael, an unraced 3-year-old Pennsylvania-bred son of Lewis Michael out of Elusive Joy, by Elusive Quality, was sold for $325 last week at New Holland, a livestock auction frequented by buyers who send horses to Canadian slaughter plants. Prince Michael was bred and owned by Thomas McClay, the second-leading owner by money won at Penn National in 2012. McClay is also a member of the board of directors of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association at Penn National.
Days earlier, Prince Michael was allegedly sold to horse broker Phil Shirk for $1 by Ed Price, who handles bloodstock affairs for McClay. Shirk is believed by many in the horse welfare community to be a regular supplier to kill buyers (a Google search of Phil Shirk horse provides several examples).
Candace Scheirer, who attends the New Holland sale looking for Thoroughbreds being sold for slaughter, saw the then-unidentified Prince Michael prior to being sold and unsuccessfully attempted to purchase him privately. He was bought by Brian Moore, a contract buyer for a Canadian plant, according to Deborah Jones, a California woman involved in rescuing horses from slaughter.
Scheirer was able to buy Prince Michael privately for $375 after he was auctioned off to Moore, Jones said, and Sheirer now has the horse in her possession. The horse was identified as Prince Michael, and his foal certificates are believed to be on file at Penn National.
Price, who could not be reached for comment, stated to Jones that he was unaware that Shirk supplied horses to kill buyers in the past.
McClay also could not be reached for comment.
Dan Silver, director of racing operations for Penn National, said he is awaiting a copy of the bill of sale from Price to Shirk. “This situation was brought to our attention a few days ago and we are in the process of trying to gather information about it,” Silver said.
Penn National's anti-slaughter policy states: “Any horsemen stabled at a Penn National Gaming Inc.-owned or -operated horse racing facility who knowingly, or without conducting proper due diligence, sells a horse for slaughter, directly or indirectly, will have his or her stalls revoked and may, in addition, be barred from all of our racing properties.”
This case may come down to how “due diligence” is defined.
Price, who was vice president of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association and very active in legislative affairs and fund-raising for the organization, promptly resigned his position with the PHBA on Friday night after his role was uncovered by Jones. Within 24 hours, his name was removed from the PHBA website and his image cropped out of a photograph of officers.
Brian Sanfratello, president of the PHBA, said Price told him he “wasn't aware the horse was going to the kill pen” when he sold him to Shirk for $1. “He then explained to me that he did not want to put the breeders in a bad light and submitted his resignation, which we accepted as an organization.
“We work very closely with Turning for Home at Parx and New Vocations at Penn National to make sure that any unwanted horses that have been on the track are placed,” Sanfratello said. “We contribute monetarily to both organizations and we support the racetracks' (anti-slaughter) policy.”
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