Maryland racing stewards will order the redistribution of purses from three races this winter--officially confirming for the first time that horses were switched, apparently inadvertently, for those races.
The stewards' ruling will be made public no later than Monday, according to sources close to the investigation, which has not been completed.
The investigation has involved two horses--Dr. Peatoppy and Sun Dandy--trained by Raymond Stifano.
Sources said that Allen Foreman, an assistant state attorney general who advises the racing commission, has decided that the evidence is conclusive that Dr. Peatoppy, who had run well in $12,500 claiming races at the Meadowlands in November, raced as Sun Dandy, who had run poorly against $4,000 claimers. The horse who raced as Sun Dandy finished third at odds of 99 to 1 on Feb. 24, then won his next two starts, on March 6 and 17, at odds of 5 1/2 to 1.
Stifano said the switch occurred because the name tags on the horses' bridles were wrong. He said Friday that he had told investigators "everything I know about the case." The owners of Dr. Peatoppy and Sun Dandy, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Paladino of Essex, N.H., could not be reached for comment.
William Ramsey, chief of security at Pimlico, Bowie and Timonium, has been granted an extension by the state racing commission to complete his investigation. He said the stewards' decision to redistribute the purses before the investigation has been completed was not unusual. He said that once it has been determined that the wrong horse has run, the money must be redistributed.
Other than to confirm that the purse money could be redistributed before the investigation is completed, Chief Steward J. Fred Colwill declined comment today.
Sources said the remaining issues of the investigation include confirming that the switch was inadvertent, and determining whether other undetected switches occurred that involved horsemen unrelated to the Dr. Peatoppy-Sun Dandy matter.
The mixup of the two horses was not discovered until March 31, when Coleman Blind, a substitute horse identifier in the paddock, noticed that the lip tattoo did not match the real Sun Dandy's. The horse was ordered scratched that day and an investigation was begun. James Rowan, the regular horse identifier who said he was on duty the days of the three races, has been reassigned to clerical duties until the investigation is completed. Rowan was on vacation March 31.
Horse owner Charles R. Zepp, whose Swap Money finished second to the horse represented as Sun Dandy on March 17, is not completely pleased by the redistribution of purses.
"Sure I'm happy to be getting the difference between first and second purse money ($1,710). But that's after the fact. What about the $200 I bet to win on my horse? And what about the $50 my son bet? My trainer also bet $50. That comes to more than the purse (an estimated $3,500). As I learn more of the facts behind the case, I feel more and more outraged since the mistake was one that should have been uncovered before."