The bay horse standing under guard in a stall in Barn 59 at Belmont Park has an elongated star on its forehead, Cinzano has such a star, according to Uruguayan authorities, Lebon's star was circular.
That much we know. So much of the rest is conjecture, or circumstantial evidence, in the case of the "Belmont Sting" or the "Montevideo Switch," which is playing daily to millions of readers in the New York press.
Never has a horse captured the city's imagination as has Lebon-Cinzano. Whoever he is, he won the ninth race at Belmont Park Sept. 23 by four lengths and returned $11G straight at odds of 57 to 1.
The popular assumption is that Mark Gerard, the prominent New York veterinarian who imported Lebon and Cinzano to the United States June 4, made several "killings" on the dead.
First, he purchased Cinzano for $31,000 through an agent in Montevildeo. Lebon was an extra, for $2,000. Cinzano had been the champion 3-year-old in Uruguay in 1976. Lebon's past performances were undistinguished.
Cinzano and Lebon spent a week in quarantine in Clifton, N.J., then were taken to Gerard's farm in Muttontown, N.Y., June 11. On June 12, Gerard says, Cinzano had to be destroyed. The horse had suffered a fractured skull. The body was taken to a Long-Island dump.
Cinzao had been insured for $150,000. Gerard having sold the horse to one Joseph Taub gor that price. The insurance company was quick to pay off, at full prize.
Lebon made his first start Sept. 9, going 1 1/16 miles on the dirt at Belmont, under a $10,500 claiming tag, lie opened at 49 to 1 but closed at 7 to 1 adn finished 11th in the field of 12. Two weeks later, sent out for $16,000 over 1 1/4 miles on the turf. Lebon triggered a $29,855 triple.
Gerard reportedly bet enough on the race to make more than $70,000.
"That's the part of the story everybody is quick to point out," a friend of Gerard's said yesterday in the Belmont backstretch.
"That's seems to be the cement in the case they're building against him. What nobody seems to want to bear, however, is that Mike (Gerard) bet nearly $8,000 on the horse the first time out. Noboby stresses that because it goes against the flow of the evidence."
Gerard and Jack Morgan, Lebon's owner-trainer, were suspended by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, but Gerard's suspended was litted today by a [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] division panel pending a full hearing, before the Racing and Wagering Board.
The basis for the suspending was the board's conclusion that on Sept. 23 Lebon was not Lebon, the amount of money bet on Lebon was not justified by the horse's racing record and the testimony of the two men as gathered by the board's investigators was "not satisfactory."
The case, the first such in-lance of a ringer, or substitution of horses here in 30 years, has been referred to the Nassau County distict attorney.The FBI also has been called in to help U.S. authorities currently investigating the background of Lebon and Cinzano in Uruguay.
Reports from Montevideo indicate three of the two horses' four parents are dead, making identification by blood-typing virtually impossible.
Horse identification has always been a problem at race tracks throughout the world. Ironically, the ID system employed in New York is probably the best in the United States.
New York shifted its emphasis from lip-tattoing to night-eyes several years ago. Night-eyes, or "chestnuts" are leathery patches on the inside of a horse's legs, above the knees and below the hocks. They are a horse's fingerprints. No horse by another name can be substituted.
A switch in a horse papers can be made, however, before it leaves its home country for New York, where it is photographed, thus making the switch permanent.
What is needed is an identification system that includes night-eye, blood typing and the accurate listing of whorls (or cowlicks) and colog markings on the horse's anatomy. This information would have to be supplied at the time of registration, naturally, and there would have to be a world-wide system.
Some foreign countries would not cooperate willingly, unless they was the threat of barring all importation of racing and breeding stock from that nation. Maybe that's the answer.