Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

File photo, 2012. Mark Kennedy rakes up around the stalls which is part of his daily regiment.

Dead horse raises flags at Cal Expo

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014 - 10:38 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Mar. 13, 2014 - 2:12 pm

Why would anyone try to hide a dead horse?

That’s the crux of a troubling incident at Cal Expo that’s led to a state investigation and the exclusion from the track of a Sacramento horse owner and trainer.

The California Horse Racing Board is investigating the death of Nutmegs Davey, a 5-year-old pacer who succumbed Sunday at Cal Expo less than 24 hours after winning a harness race Saturday night at the Sacramento track.

According to track officials, the horse’s remains were taken from the track to a local farm with no notification to authorities or explanation.

Under state racing rules, any horse that dies at a California racetrack for any reason must be transported to UC Davis’ California Animal Health and Food Safety lab for a necropsy, in part to see if the horse has any foreign substances in its system.

“The CHRB is investigating this matter and, therefore, we’re unable to comment further at this time,” said CHRB spokesman Mike Martin.

Ormin A. Carrera, who bought Nutmegs Davey on Jan. 25, and trainer Dario M. Solares have been banned from Cal Expo indefinitely. Pending the investigation, they also face suspension of their racing licenses or possible criminal charges.

“I’ve never heard of an incident of a horse being removed (in this way) in the 20-some years I’ve been involved in racing,” said Chris Schick, general manager of the Cal Expo meet for operator Watch & Wager LLC.

“If people notice a horse is dead, they’re supposed to notify us and the CHRB immediately,” Schick said. “This totally violated the rules.”

After hearing of the horse’s death, Watch & Wager officials and the CHRB tracked down Nutmegs Davey’s body.

“We transported the horse to UCD,” Schick said. “(The case) is now in the CHRB’s hands.”

Begun in 1990, the state’s Equine Postmortem Program has studied more than 6,000 racehorse deaths. Depending on the specifics of the case, toxicology and drug testing may be part of the review before a final report is issued, according to the CHRB. The results of such necropsies usually are available four to eight weeks after the incident.

Horse deaths at Cal Expo have been very rare. In 2012-13, three harness horses died at the state fairgrounds; two in training accidents and one in its stall, according to CHRB statistics.

Nutmegs Davey was having the best season of his career. The pacer had won six of his last seven starts – six of those races for Carrera and Solares – including Saturday night’s victory in a $3,000 claiming pace. Overall, the gelding had won 14 of 62 starts and earned $35,329.

Carrera and Solares were unavailable for comment. During their exclusion, they are unable to race any horses at Cal Expo and are forbidden to set foot on the fairgrounds.

According to the United States Trotting Association, Carerra received his owner’s license in 2005 and currently owns 10 racehorses.

Solares also was having a good year. A longtime Cal Expo trainer, Solares had posted 29 wins from 141 starts in the first 10 weeks of 2014; he won a total of 30 races in all of 2013. Since 2000, his horses had 464 victories and earned more than $1.17 million, according to USTA records.

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

Read more articles by Debbie Arrington

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