Kentucky investigation clears horse trainer of abuse allegations

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 16, 2015 1:27 AM

(Reuters) - A racing Hall of Fame-nominated horse trainer was cleared by Kentucky gaming officials on Thursday of abuse allegations leveled against him by animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said in a report published on its website that PETA's claims that Steve Asmussen, his top assistant, Scott Blasi, and other staff had administered various performance enhancing and pain-masking drugs to horses and used electric shock paddles on them were unfounded.

"When first reading the allegations and viewing the video, concern was raised," the report said.

"After a thorough and rigorous investigation, no evidence of a rule violation was found."

Asmussen's nomination to the Hall of Fame was tabled last March while the Kentucky and New York state racing commissions conducted investigations, after PETA posted a video online that was recorded by an undercover investigator working for Asmussen.

In the video, the assistant can be heard saying one horse, Nehro, "doesn't have any foot at all" in an apparent reference to allegations of repeated application of Z-bar horseshoes on already damaged hooves.

"If there was nothing wrong in the documentation that PETA found, then something is very wrong with racing in Kentucky," PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement on Thursday.

"Perhaps the New York State Gaming Commission, which is still conducting an investigation, will do just that," she added.

The Kentucky commission report said the footage was extensively edited and that the audio had been dubbed, and a reluctance on the part of the animal rights group to share additional evidence cast doubt on their claims.

Asmussen, known as one of the top trainers of race horses in the United States, is a two-time Eclipse Award winner whose stable has included Breeders' Cup Classic champion Curlin and Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Paul Tait)