Voiding A Void Claim: Arizona Track Noticed For Not Complying With National Rule - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Voiding A Void Claim: Arizona Track Noticed For Not Complying With National Rule

Arizona Downs was served with a notice of suspected violation by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority earlier this month after state officials prevented a void claim from going into effect.

According to a notice sent to the track by Authority chair Charles Scheeler on Sept. 12, a horse called Ag Minister was claimed by trainer Justin Evans from the fourth race at Arizona Downs on July 23. The horse cooled out in the test barn and the examining veterinarian determined the horse was lame in its left front leg.

Greg Stiles, who serves as the HISA steward for Arizona Downs, began the process of voiding the claim.

Track safety rules promulgated by the Authority earlier this year make provisions for a claim to be voided if a horse is declared unsound in the test barn, among other circumstances. Prior to the safety rules set forth by the Authority earlier this year, Arizona did not have a void claim rule.

Veterinarians and regulatory specialists generally favor void claim rules because they reduce the incentive for a trainer acting in bad faith to run a horse with a known medical issue in a claiming race with the hope the horse will be claimed. Void claim rules, which have existed for years in other states, are also thought to grant trainers looking to claim horses some confidence they won't be required to put out money for a horse that may have a limited racing future.

Read our previous reporting on void claim rules and what the national rules mean for states like Arizona here.  

According to the Authority's violation report, Stiles was notified by Arizona chief state steward Jason Hart that the claim would not be voided.

“Hart stated that he had been informed by his supervisors at the Arizona Department of Racing that HISA Rule 2262 would not be enforced by the Arizona stewards,” the report read. “Because Arizona does not have a void claim rule, the claim was not voided and ownership of Ag Minister passed to the claimant.

“Stiles informed general manager of Arizona Downs Mike Weiss about these developments. The Authority has reasonable grounds to believe that Arizona Downs violated or failed to comply with HISA Rule 2262(4).”

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A spokesman for the Arizona Department of Gaming confirmed that Ag Minister was inspected at the test barn and determined to be lame. He was put on the veterinarian's list and has had no timed workouts or races since July 23, according to Equibase.

In that race, Ag Minister was taking a significant step down in price for former trainer and co-owner Kevin Eikleberry. His previous race at Arizona Downs on June 25 was a maiden optional claimer where his claim price was $30,000, and he finished sixth. A month later, in his July 23 start, his claiming price was $3,500.

Max Hartgraves, public information officer for the Department of Gaming, said there had been no other instances so far where a HISA steward had tried to void a claim in Arizona but had that decision reversed by state officials.

Arizona's Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association affiliate is one of the entities which recently sought to join a federal lawsuit against the Authority. The suit claims the Authority and the Federal Trade Commission have violated two amendments to the U.S. Constitution and other regulations around federal agency policy-making.

“The Department has worked cooperatively with HISA stewards involving rulings where new HISA rules and state rules conflict,” said Hartgraves via email. “The Department has reached out to HISA for additional guidance and opened a new rule-making docket with the Secretary of State's Office to conform rules and ensure ongoing compliance.”

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