State Officials Reviewing Horse Ambulance Delay At Penn National

by | 11.28.2017 | 1:29pm
Hollywood Casino at Penn National in Grantville, Pa.

The Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission said it is reviewing a Nov. 17 incident at Penn National racetrack in Grantville, Pa., in which it took a reported eight minutes for the horse ambulance to arrive so that a stricken horse could be treated and, ultimately, euthanized.

Aspic, a 6-year-old mare bred, owned and trained by Candice M. Smith and ridden by Jacqueline Davis, suffered a catastrophic injury and fell while racing in third position in the six-furlong allowance race for registered Pennsylvania-breds. A second horse, Hygh Life, lost her rider, Kaylia Albright, trying to avoid the fallen horse but was not apparently injured. Neither rider suffered major injuries although Davis suffered contusions in the leg and collarbone area and was sidelined for 10 days.

Footnotes in the originally published race chart from Equibase, the Thoroughbred industry's official database, stated: “Aspic chased the pace on the outside, broke down at the three-eighths pole and was euthanized after the ambulance took about eight minutes to arrive.”

Penn National officials have not said why there was a delay in the horse ambulance's arrival but indicated there are protocols in place for handling catastrophic injuries. Dr. Jerry Pack, association veterinarian for Penn National, normally would be stationed with the horse ambulance in the backstretch chute, but was not on duty Nov. 17 and a substitute veterinarian was working in his place, according to a source. A second veterinarian, employed by the racing commission, is typically on duty during racing as well.

Tom Chuckas, director of the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission's Thoroughbred bureau, confirmed in an email that the commission is “reviewing” the incident but did not say whether any subsequent report would be made public.

The Equibase chart footnotes, meanwhile, were edited to delete the phrase “after the ambulance took about eight minutes to arrive.”

Jason Wilson, president and chief operating officer of Equibase said: “Horse ambulance response times are not included in chart footnotes. The reported horse ambulance response time in the sixth race at Penn National on November 17, 2017 should not have been included in the chart footnotes and it was subsequently removed.”

Equibase is owned by a conglomerate of racetracks, including Penn National, and The Jockey Club.

  • Hipolito B.

    When state officials are lousy, led by Tom C. as well as the maclious disregard for racing, as penn gaming shows us year after year, by the inept Chris McErlean, it only fuels the fire that funding for that sport in that state needs to go away!

  • Richard C

    This pit should be shut down.

  • Sinking Ship

    So Equibase doesn’t want the truth publicized?

    • Hamish

      Wonder if the PNat chart caller is in any trouble for putting the truth out there?

      • Eric

        I have no idea, but a footnote like that is clearly written to draw attention to the issue. I’m glad she put it out there, otherwise nothing would happen.

      • Dadnatron

        While I agree with the sentiment, that isn’t the place to put that information. I know the outcome pushed Penn to actually do something and without it, it likely would not. However, do you want personal views to be put into every chart? When will it be ‘appropriate’ and when is it just a pissed-off caller who has an axe to grind?

        • Billy

          Not a damn thing would happen without that information and that alone is why it should matter

        • Eric

          I do get your point. Its a fine line If a chart caller said a recently claimed horse “won with the new rocket fuel” or a horse “was dubiously disqualified”
          or something like that, you are opening up all kinds of problems. But she stated an indisputable fact… it was more of a fact than an opinion/viewpoint.

          I agree that its not the sort of thing that normally ends up in a chart. But that doesn’t meet its a bad thing IMO.

    • Judy Gaddis

      Sounds like they WANT the truth publicized and it was “gently suggested” (i.e. those in charge at Equibase were TOLD) that the ambulance response time was to be removed.

      I personally would like to know how many other times this same type of incident has occurred and my guess would be that it has been enough that Equibase purposely wrote the statement to bring attention of this travesty to the public.

      • Billy

        Equibase changed it not once but twice….

  • Bryan Langlois

    The bigger issue here is that no chase truck, or truck with a vet in it that follows the horses around the track, is in place at Penn. I personally have been asking Eric Johnston for over a year now to have that in place. There is NO EXCUSE for not having one. The story is not 100% correct. Dr. Pack is only by the Ambulance in the 6 furlong chute if it is a 1 turn race. If it is a 2 turn race then he is stationed by the gate where the horses break from in front of the stands (which is fine since a vet is needed there…however…in those cases what should happen is the vet from the paddock goes to the gate to watch the horses, and the other vet sits in the chase truck at the head of the backstretch to follow the horses after they clear the clubhouse turn). If there is a tragic breakdown or something, then they must wait for someone to drive a truck to 1st pick him up, then drive him to the horse. Then someone else has to get in the ambulance and drive it to the site of the injury. There is just no excuse for these types of lapses. The bottom line is there NEEDS to be a chase truck, a vet NEEDS to be stationed in it…and it NEEDS to be following the horses. I plan to bring this very thing up tomorrow at the Commission meeting asking the commission to just make it a regulation and a rule. I have seen many times at Penn breakdowns with horrible response time to get to a horse in distress. INEXCUSABLE!!!!!! This is NOT a difficult concept.

    • RayPaulick

      Thank you for the clarification, Bryan, and thanks for being an advocate for the horses.

  • john

    this place is full of scandal, incompetence, etc….never ends

  • Not Surprised

    The people at Penn National, Eric, Chris, Jenny couldn’t run a lemonade stand if you gave them the pitcher and the cups. This is very sad and completely avoidable.

    This is what happens when you have people who “just show up” for work at a slots racetrack. The horse welfare is always last in my opinion.

  • Not Surprised

    By the way, Tom Chuckas, fits right into the mold of a perfect racing commission employee.

    All talk, no action. The game suffers. He’s as worthless in PA as he was in Maryland. Maryland doing way better since he left.

  • ridingtowin

    One can’t even hang out around the horseman’s side of the paddock without breathing in deadly gaseous fumes. The track ambulance is backed right up to the jocks room doors with engine running and you can smell the fumes spewing out of the tailpipes while in the saddling area. Both man and equines health is at risk.

  • Kevin Callinan

    With each PA incident Stuart Janney’s assessment of the racing officials being asleep gains credibility.

  • Hopeless in Pa

    Today a ” jockey”/ exercise rider fell off a horse who then crashed head 1st into a pony. Horse (s) and others riding were seriously injured The “jockey” that feel of is widely known among the backstretch , jock room crowds and allegedly the racing commission itself to be a known substance abuser. More incompetence and negligence by those supposedly in charge. Hope they sue them for a bundle!! All could been avoided if the authorities just did their jobs.
    Racing commission will say they need facts. Isn’t that what investigations are for to find facts.
    3 ring circus with no one with any sense in charge or remotely interested in cleaning things up. This latest incident may have all been avoided if this “rider” was regularly tested vs. getting informed when tests may be done and coincidentally he doesn’t show up there that day. Truth stranger than fiction.

    • Bryan Langlois

      Did this happen at Penn National?

    • Really?

      There is a jock at Parx with known substance abuse problem, has been ruled off other places for theft. Doubtful he is being tested. Plugs in horses so he always has a few mounts.

  • Michael Castellano

    Thanks for publishing, Ray. A perfect example of why racing in such bad shape. And why politicians who make a career out of complaining about rules and regulations are shills for places like this.

  • Genellen

    This is the same track where a horse was left to die after breaking down in a workout, with NO ambulance or medical attention, a few years ago.

    I hate this track. I wouldn’t go there if it were the only track in America.

    • Billy

      Twice….once no ambulance was avalible and horse had to walk back to the barn with a broken cannon bone….the other no vet was on grounds horse wasnt euthanized for an hr an 45 min…..if thats not enough another horse dagger point was just found at auction, still not implicating your no slaughter policy….and finally a horse was found recently broken ankle and left in the stall to fend for himself…..when if ever are we going to rid these people and take away their buissness…..story after story at penn year after year after year for at least 10 years when is enough enough for this place when will someone step in and finally just stop it all of it penn national, pa racing commission, anyone that truely cares what is happening to these creatures almost daily….im tired of hearing it reading it seeing it….it is 2017 and is UNACCEPTABLE for any reason enough is enough already

  • Noelle

    There are few spectators likely to be present on a Friday. Maybe Penn doesn’t care about the horse ambulance or how long an injured horse lies on the track because whoever is broadcasting the race (like TVG, for instance) doesn’t much care when a horse goes down. TVG just moves right along to the next race / next track.

    And, if Penn is like Laurel on New Year’s Even when Just Jack broke down, the track announcers keep blabbing with not a word said about the injured horse. They all pretend nothing is happening and assume no one will care. Thanks to the Paulick Report for publishing this story.

  • Minneola

    Any wonder why there is such a reluctance to having a centralized governing board for all tracks here in the U.S.? If there was one, Penn Natl would have been closed down until it had people to adequately manage this track, which is an embarrassment to the sport of horse racing.

  • raebzan

    Penn National, maybe Pennsylvania racing in general, needs an overhaul or a boycott. I know a boycott is a touchy subject, because the industry already has enough problems with the horse inventory and financial issues, but if you can avoid racing at Penn National, or if we’re being totally honest, in Pennsylvania at all, maybe it’s something to be considered. The welfare of the horse seems to be at the mercy of a racing jurisdiction with little oversight, and little care for anything except the dollar signs. If you can afford to go to New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio or West Virginia, whichever jurisdiction you trust more than Pennsylvania, maybe you should.

    My feeling is, while balancing with the average horseman’s choices with the little concern the state of Pennsylvania has for the sport, the horsemen should seek more competent pastures elsewhere if they can. Otherwise the many problems in PA, such as a constant year-round schedule, stewards that don’t care about their integrity, and horses who suffer the consequences of circuit mismanagement, will continue to take a toll on the sport overall. The status quo will never prompt change in that state, and there has to be some way to send a message that Pennsylvania is ruining their own industry. It’s painful to hear those things happening so often at Penn National and Parx, and knowing that there’s not much that can be done that won’t hurt somebody…or kill them.

  • Southwest Dude

    That’s nothing, I was at Sunland Park in New Mexico and a quarterhorse broke both legs at the finish line. They brought the horse ambulance but the winch in it had been out of order for a while and they couldn’t get the horse winched in it. So they took the horse ambulance back and brought a manure loader over to the grandstand and had a bunch of guys push the horse in legs up. Then the loader went off in front of the grandstand to the backside. What a sight and it took about 20 minutes.

  • f^2

    This happened on 11/17 and Blu Moon Ace broke down and was euthanized on 11/22 in the 200,000 Fabulous Strike Stake. Same distance and similar circumstances between these breakdowns. This oval has problems.

  • Kincsem

    kudos to the chart caller for calling them out.

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