Hall of Fame horse trainer Jerry Hollendorfer banned after horse deaths

Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, whose 7,617 career victories are third-most in thoroughbred racing history, has been ordered to vacate his stables at Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita.

The decision by The Stronach Group, which owns both tracks, came after a Hollendorfer-trained horse, American Currency, suffered a fatal injury in a workout Saturday on Santa Anita’s training track.

American Currency was the fourth horse trained by Hollendorfer — and the 30th overall — to be euthanized either in racing or training during Santa Anita’s winter-spring season that began Dec. 26 and ends Sunday. Hollendorfer had one horse die during Golden Gate Fields’ winter-spring season that ran Dec. 26 through June 9.

Santa Anita has been criticized for the condition of its racetrack and was forced to close for three weeks in March when the rate of catastrophic injuries reached its peak. The Stronach Group has increased scrutiny on horses before workouts and races and has added new rules concerning medications such as Lasix.

“Individuals who do not embrace the new rules and safety measures that put horse and rider safety above all else will have no place at any Stronach Group racetrack,” the company said in a statement.

“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. Effective immediately, Mr. Hollendorfer is no longer welcome to stable, race or train his horses at any of our facilities.”

Hollendorfer was fined three times over the past 18 months for overages in permitted medications such as the anti-inflammation agent phenylbutazone. He said he was informed of The Stronach Group’s decision in a meeting Saturday with Tim Ritvo, the company’s chief operating officer.

“I thought it was a little bit premature and extreme,” Hollendorfer said in a phone interview with The Chronicle. “Mr. Ritvo told me to come to his office and then he told me they didn’t want me on the racetrack anymore. I tried to defend myself because I didn’t break any rules.”

The 73-year-old Hollendorfer began training in 1979 and won many at Bay Area tracks. He opened a Southern California division in 2008 and has been a leading trainer there, too.

He ranks seventh with $199.7 million in career earnings and has won hundreds of stakes events, including Breeders’ Cup victories with Dakota Phone, Songbird and Battle of Midway. The latter suffered a fatal injury in a workout in February. Songbird, Shared Belief, Blind Luck and Unique Bella earned Eclipse Awards as division champions.

“We feel hurt whenever anybody’s horse on the racetrack gets hurt,” Hollendorfer said. “I’ve started 33,500 horses, won over 7,600 races and $200 million in purses, so I’ve done pretty well. I’ve never done anything enough to get suspended, but I’m going to have to step away from racing for a little while. I just found out today, so I’m trying to make plans. I’m worried about my employees and their families.”

Santa Anita scratched four horses Hollendorfer entered to race there Saturday and Sunday, including 4-5 morning-line favorite Sneaking Out in the Melair Stakes.

His three entrants were allowed to race Saturday at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, and Song of the Night and Getaloadofthis finished second in the fifth and eighth races, respectively.

Racing in Southern California moves to Los Alamitos for a meeting Friday through July 14 and then to Del Mar for a meeting July 17-Sept. 2. Los Alamitos officials wouldn’t comment on Hollendorfer’s status there, and a Del Mar spokesman said that track was aware of the ban and was gathering more information.

Larry Stumes is a freelance writer.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Hall-of-Fame-horse-trainer-Jerry-Hollendorfer-14030929.php.

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