THE RUSH TO JUDGMENT ON STEVE ASMUSSEN

On March 18, 2014, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) received a letter from the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that requested an investigation into the alleged misconduct (during the period April 2013 through July 2013) by trainer Steve Asmussen, his assistant Scott Blasi, and KDE Equine.  The charges were basically of animal cruelty and the illegal administration of a prescription drug to a horse.   PETA also asked for an investigation into whether prominent trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockeys Calvin Borel, Ricardo Santana Jr., and Gary Stevens may have possessed or used an electrical device on racehorses, or knew of someone who did.

After an exhaustive review by the KHRC (encompassing a detailed examination of each of PETA’s allegations), on January 15, 2015, the KHRC stated that no evidence was found of rules violations by any of the named parties.

Further, the KHRC said that even though PETA requested the inquiry, it would not give the Commission access to PETA’s 285 page report and seven hours of video.  Rather, PETA supplied several photographs and videos lasting about 22 minutes.   The KHRC stated:  “The videos are extensively edited and audio has been overdubbed.  PETA presented conversations out of context and contrary to the substance of the conversation as a whole.”

(Click here for the KHRC website and then select the appropriate link to see the complete report.)

Based on the PETA allegations alone, with no due process, consider what transpired:  The National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame removed Mr. Asmussen’s name from the Hall of Fame ballot for 2014 and at least one owner with lots of horses fired him as a trainer.  Mr. Blasi’s employment was terminated.  The Kentucky Derby telecast was marred by terrible publicity when NBC sports anchor Bob Costas interviewed Mr. Asmussen on television about the PETA allegations.  These were just a few of the indignities emerging from the PETA affair, including a black-eye for horse racing during the showcase Triple Crown season.

Predictably, some folks in the horse-racing industry piled on Mr. Asmussen et al. as though the PETA assertions must be true.  Never mind waiting until the KHRC investigation was complete.

The KHRC report is thorough and specific, as there is plenty of dispassionate analysis and no obfuscation or white washing of the facts.  The conclusions illustrate that several people’s reputations were tarnished by unfounded accusations supported by tampered-with evidence.

Naturally, PETA will no doubt defend itself by attacking the integrity of the KHRC, notwithstanding that PETA thought enough of the KHRC to ask for the investigation to begin with.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the countless people who heard or read about the supposed animal abuse exposed by PETA won’t ever know that Mr. Asmussen (and the others) were vindicated by the KHRC report.  That is what phony accusers know and depend on–sling enough mud and some will stick.

Many “angels of mercy” work diligently and quietly to take care of animals who are abused or neglected.  Support them and avoid the extremists with a radical agenda.

Copyright ©2015 Horse Racing Business

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