By Rory Carroll and Andrew Both
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer says it was a “little premature and extreme” for Santa Anita Park to ban him on Saturday after a horse under his supervision died at the track, bringing the number of fatalities there since late December to 30.
American Currency, a four-year-old gelding trained by Hollendorfer, was euthanized after being injured during a training run at the famed Southern California track.
American Currency’s death was the fourth under Hollendorfer’s supervision this season.
“We regret that Mr. Hollendorfer’s record in recent months at both Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields has become increasingly challenging and does not match the level of safety and accountability we demand,” track owners the Stronach Group said in a statement.
“Effective immediately, Mr. Hollendorfer is no longer welcome to stable, race or train his horses at any of our facilities.”
Hollendorfer is disappointed with the ban.
“I’ve started 33,500 horses in my career. I’ve never been suspended,” he said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
“I thought that was a little bit premature and extreme but I’ll probably have to step away from racing here for a while.”
“I’m currently training more than 100 horses. Every time we lose a horse it hurts badly but I’ve been a Hall of Fame trainer and been successful in racing for 40 years.”
TRACK TO REMAIN OPEN
The Stronach Group said this month the track would remain open until the end of the season, which concludes on Sunday, despite calls from California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to suspend racing.
Animal rights activists cheered the banning of Hollendorfer but said new laws were needed in response to the spate of deaths.
“Banning the infamous Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer from all Stronach tracks sends a message to every sleazy trainer that if your horses drop like flies, you will drop with them,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) senior vice president Kathy Guillermo said.
“Other trainers with multiple violations and the blood of dead horses on their hands should go the same way, pronto.”
But Hollendorfer pushed back against such criticism.
“I’ve had some bad luck here at Santa Anita,” he said.
“I had four horses that broke down. That’s unusual for me.”
“We don’t know really what happened to the horse this morning. He worked about an eighth-of-a-mile and got a fracture in his left front ankle and then Santa Anita decided to no longer let me train there.”
The track, which is located near Los Angeles, is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup in November.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by Ed Osmond and Chris Reese)