An assistant starter is back at work at Delaware Park despite a video that went viral showing him punching a horse in the starting gate four times.
Accolade acted up in the gate prior to the fifth race at Delaware Park on Thursday, June 14. The assistant starter then appears to punch the colt not once, not twice, not three times, but four times. For good measure he then appears to slam the colt’s head into the side of the gate.
Accolade, trained by Abel Castellano and ridden that day by Daniel Centeno weakened to finish sixth. The notes in the official chart stated, “Accolade was fractious in the gate, struck several times by the assistant starter prior to the break, bobbled at the start, was forwardly placed then weakened.”
The owner Glenn Fagan released a statement on June 18 via wdel.com:
“To whom it may concern,
As the owner of ACCOLADE, the 3yr old gelding that was beaten in the head by the assistant starter on Thursday in the gate, I am disgusted at what I witnessed. I am bothered by the fact that the head starter after witnessing this attack didn’t pull my horse from the race or at the very least make him a non starter for all the people that had wagered on him. The time, effort and patience needed to have your horse ready to compete at a top level on a specific day and race is difficult, not to mention expensive. The one factor that people can’t handicap, is an employee of Delaware Park taking his frustrations out on your horse. I am happy to see the outrage and indignation that this matter has received on social media. My 14 yr old daughter and I travel 50 minutes each weekend to feed Accolade his favorite snack, peeled red delicious apples and baby carrots. She was in tears watching our horse getting beaten over and over and over and over and over again. She didn’t sleep Thursday night, as the image of the abuse replayed in her mind.
I am surprised that no representative from Delaware Park had the decency to reach out to either Able Castellano (my trainer) or myself. If this type of behavior is routine in the racing business, then I must rethink my participation in the sport of kings. I am not a litigious person, but the lack of empathy on the behalf of Delaware Park is intolerable.
Glenn A. Fagan”
However, Fagan released another statement where he changed his tune:
When I made my statement to you I was extremely upset over the incident that occurred at Delaware Park on Thursday. My trainer, Abel Castellano had not informed me that upper management, John Mooney, had not only reached out to him, but had sent the State Veterinarian to check on the welfare of Accolade as well. Though I personally have not heard anything from Delaware Park, I’m glad to know that they were concerned for the safety of my horse.
Abel had also informed me that the assistant starter involved in the incident, someone that he had known well and respected, had apologized to him as well. I understand that this man has worked for Delaware Park for some 20 years in an extremely dangerous job and a moment of frustration shouldn’t ruin his life. Able informed me that he is the best and most experienced starter on the team.
My daughter and I, went on our Saturday morning pilgrimage to visit with Accolade yesterday to feed him his beloved Apples and carrots. He seems to be in good spirits and we hope that he will be able to compete in the near future.
— mark bowers (@MarkBowers1) June 14, 2018
Delaware Park released an official statement saying there would be no action taken against the assistant starter:
“The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission (DTRC) has advised Delaware Park that the Stewards have completed a thorough investigation of the incident that occurred in the starting gate before the fifth race at the racetrack on Thursday, June 14th and that no disciplinary action will be taken against the Assistant Starter. Based upon this determination, the Assistant Starter, who has been on suspension since the incident occurred, will be allowed to return to his position.”
While Delaware Park is taking no action, I am, with my bankroll. I am not going to support any track that takes no action when there is animal abuse involved.
I know starters have a very dangerous job, I get that. But what I saw from that video is the assistant starter punching that horse FOUR times and slamming his head against the side of the gate.
There is no excuse. There should be a job opening today at Delaware Park.