Identifier, Owner And Trainer Issued Fines, Other Sanctions For New Mexico Horse Mix-Up - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Identifier, Owner And Trainer Issued Fines, Other Sanctions For New Mexico Horse Mix-Up

Over a year after the incident, the New Mexico Racing Commission has handed down sanctions in a case of horse misidentification during the 2020 Downs at Albuquerque meet, according to rulings posted on the Association of Racing Commissioners International website.

The horse identifier in the paddock at Albuquerque failed to catch the mix-up, as did the private veterinarian who treated the horse with furosemide on race-day. (Note: New Mexico still permits private veterinarians in the stalls for furosemide shots on race-day.)

For their roles in the mix-up, horse identifier Kenneth Mike LaRue was fined $5,000 and is unable to be licensed as a racing official in New Mexico; trainer Sherry Armstrong was fined $2,000 and suspended 15 days from Dec. 15-30; and owner Tom McKenna of Judge Lanier Racing was fined $2,000.

Previously owned by Judge Lanier Racing before being entered into a ThoroughbredAuctions.com dispersal sale, McCirca and McMissy are both bred by McKenna Thoroughbreds and sired by McKenna's Justice. Armstrong told the Paulick Report that the pair had been sent to her with nametags on their halters, apparently having been inadvertently swapped.

Armstrong sent out the filly she believed to be named McCirca for two races at Albuquerque on Aug. 22, 2020, and Sept. 16, 2020. Armstrong said she learned shortly after the Sept. 16 race that McCirca was actually another 4-year-old filly named McMissy.

One major difference between the two fillies: McCirca is a bay, while McMissy is chestnut.

The Judge Lanier Racing LLC Dispersal of Race Horses was held online Sept. 16, 2020, through Sept. 23, 2020.

McMissy, who was ordered disqualified from her sixth and last-place finishes in the Aug. 22 and Sept. 16 races, respectively, has since run twice for new owner Dylan Pyle and trainer Guadalupe Munoz, Jr. at Zia Park, on Nov. 4, 2020 and Dec. 22, 2020. The filly did not threaten in either race. Equibase does not list the starts in August and September on her past performances.

McCirca, now racing for owner/trainer Ruben Leyba, ran at Albuquerque on Aug. 29, 2021, finishing seventh in what was actually her first race since March 8, 2020. She raced again on Sept. 14, 2021, again finishing seventh, and again on Nov. 21, 2021, in which she lost her rider at the start and walked off the track.

Another New Mexico-based trainer, Justin Evans, was suspended 15 days and fined $5,000 for mixing up two horses from his stable entered in the same race at Albuquerque on Aug. 14, 2021. Evans criticized the equipment given to the horse identifier and the process used to confirm the identity of horses as they come into the paddock. The identifier received a $1,000 fine for the error involving the Evans horses.

“The thing the commission would like to see is all the racing officials that work in the state of New Mexico get some education on how to do their jobs right, and not be so lazy,” Izzy Trejo, executive director of the NMRC, told bloodhorse.com. “That's basically why these mistakes happen because people cut corners and they're lazy. I hate to be so blunt.”

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