LAUREL -- Trainer Ann Merryman was suspended 20 days by the Maryland stewards yesterday for her role in a voided claim. The owners involved, Blazing Stables Inc., were fined $500.
The unusual incident initially brought allegations of impropriety from other parties involved. However, pending a review Wednesday before the Maryland Racing Commission, Merryman and others declined to comment.
On Feb. 2, trainers Merryman and James T. Burtis Jr. submitted claim slips for $8,500 for Paparatius in the second race at Laurel Race Course. When more than one person submits a claim for a horse, racing officials use a numbered-pill process, known as a "shake," with the winning pill determining the new owner. Merryman won the shake for the 3-year-old filly.
Merryman had submitted the claim on behalf of Blazing Stables; Burtis, for Andy Lemeshewsky.
After Paparatius -- competing for trainer Jim Simpson -- finished a tired sixth in an eight-horse field, she was vanned to Merryman's barn at Pimlico Race Course. Soon thereafter, members of Blazing Stables allegedly told officials that Merryman was not properly authorized to claim Paparatius and the claim should be voided.
The stewards agreed the technicality nullified the claim, and notified Lemeshewsky late that afternoon that he was the new owner. Lemeshewsky said he did not want the filly and would not accept her, and for three days she stayed in Merryman's barn.
After two hearings, the stewards ordered the filly shipped to Burtis' barn at the Bowie training center, where she has remained under protest.
The stewards, in issuing the penalty yesterday, said Merryman committed "multiple rules violations." She told the stewards she would begin her suspension today.
When Lemeshewsky's case is presented before the commission, it will question whether he is contractually obligated to accept the horse after an agreement had been consummated by Merryman.