Trainer Jonathan Wong began serving a 60-day suspension on May 30 after a search of his Parx Racing barn by officials produced two hypodermic needles and syringes and two bottles of an injectable substance. Wong insists he was set up by a former employee he had fired.
“My assistant and his girlfriend, who was working for me as a groom, came from California when I moved to Pennsylvania at the end of last year,” Wong said. “She got real lazy, wasn't showing up for work and was doing a bad job. I told her boyfriend, ‘Why are we paying her?' So I fired her.
“I'm at the track one morning watching horses work,” Wong continued. “Around 9:30 a.m., she's in my barn, I said, ‘I don't want her around my barn, can you have her leave?' He got mad; she got mad and said, ‘I'm going to tell the stewards you inject your horses.' A groom, a hotwalker and and my fiancée heard her say it.”
Later that morning, Wong said, he was at home when he got a call from an investigator, telling him they had found a needle, syringe and some injectables in his tack room. “The substance they found was one of those Horse Prerace things anyone can order off the Internet. They were in a jacket of my assistant behind a door,” Wong said.
“I told them, ‘That's not mine. I live five minutes from the racetrack,” Wong said. “Do you think if it's my stuff that I'm going to leave it there?”
Wong declined to provide to Paulick Report the name of the assistant, who no longer works for him, or the assistant's girlfriend. He said they now work at Penn National. Stewards were given all the information during a hearing, he added.
Stewards told Wong he would not be permitted to turn over his horses stabled at Parx to his fiancée, Meagan Davenport, who is also a licensed trainer. Those horses will be trained by Patrick Ashton, Wong said. Davenport is listed as trainer of record of Wong's Northern California string.
“Other trainers get suspensions, they can have their assistant take over,” Wong said, citing the way suspensions of Patricia Farro, Miguel Penaloza and Jamie Ness have been handled. “It's a complete double standard at this track. Everything about this place is about favoritism.”
Wong, who for 10 years worked as assistant for Northern California trainer John Martin and for Keith Bennett in Arizona before going out on his own in 2014, bristles at being labeled a cheater. His high win percentage has raised eyebrows.
“Everyone says you're 28 percent so you must cheat,” he said. “There's a lot of details people don't understand. A lot of them don't feed the horses right, take care of their teeth. You'd be amazed how many people I've claimed off, the horses' teeth are sharp like nails. If horses can't digest their feed properly, they're not going to get the nutritional benefits. You do the little things and they add up. My feed bill and my tack bill for supplements are ridiculous. Those things aren't illegal. I'm willing to spend an extra dollar on my horses.
“I'm at this seven days a week,” he added. “I wake up at 4:30 in the morning and am going till after six at night. I'm constantly reading charts, watching replays, keeping video notes. All that goes into claiming horses. A lot of people looking in from the outside don't understand. All of that goes into claiming horses.”
Wong was granted an opportunity to appeal the suspension but his request for a stay was denied.
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