Associations offer rewards in Kentucky 'sponge' cases Practice compromises horse's ability to breathe

July 11, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Horse-racing associations are offering rewards for information leading to arrests and convictions in recent cases of "sponging" in Kentucky -- stuffing sponges into the nostrils of racehorses.

The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau is investigating at least five cases in which sponges were inserted into the nasal passages of horses that raced this spring at Churchill Downs. The sponges compromise a horse's ability to run by diminishing its ability to breathe. They could be used to fix a race. The horses' names have not been released.

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Keeneland Association and Jockeys' Guild are offering rewards of about $5,000. Anyone with information about the cases should call Bernie Hettel, executive director of the Kentucky Racing Commission, at (606) 246-2040.

William "Bill" Boniface, who covered horse racing for The Baltimore Sun from 1937 to 1982, excluding four years with the Marine Corps during World War II, said "sponging" is an old depravity around racetracks.

"Yeah, it's happened in Maryland," Boniface said. "I remember three or four cases. I don't think trainers ever did it to slow their horses down, but culprits paid a groom or some stablehand to do it so they could try to cash a bet."

On the subject of equine intrigue, Boniface, the 79-year-old founder of Bonita Farm and father of trainer J. William Boniface, will be at Laurel from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday signing his first novel, "Studs," about misdeeds in horse breeding and racing during the era of J. Edgar Hoover.

NOTES: The owners of Dr. Banting, trained by Charlie Hadry Sr., hope to send their 4-year-old gelding against Cigar in Saturday's Arlington Citation Challenge.

Michael Solomon, half-owner of Huckelberry Creek Stable along with his father-in-law, Herbert Keil, said yesterday that the horse is at Arlington, waiting to learn whether it qualifies for the race, which is limited to 10 starters.

Hadry declined to travel with Dr. Banting, but sent his son, Charlie Hadry Jr. Hadry Sr. declined to comment, but Solomon said Hadry Sr.'s response was: "Too tough a race."

Dr. Banting won the $52,518 Walter Haight Handicap June 15 at Laurel Park. He was a long shot then, paying $28.40 to win. His odds will be considerably longer if he gets in Saturday.

Simulcast schedule

Today

Arlington .. .. .. .. ..1 p.m.

Atlantic City .. .. .. .7 p.m.

Belmont Park .. .. .. ..1 p.m.

Calder .. .. .. .. .. ..1 p.m.

Ellis .. .. .. .. .. ...1 p.m.

Hollywood Park .. .. ...3 p.m.

Louisiana Downs .. .. ..1 p.m.

Tomorrow Arlington .. ..1 p.m.

Atlantic City .. .. .. .7 p.m.

Belmont Park .. .. .. ..1 p.m.

Ellis .. .. .. .. .. ...1 p.m.

Hollywood Park .. .. ...3 p.m.

Louisiana Downs .. .. ..1 p.m.

Monmouth Park .. .. .. .1 p.m.

Penn National .. .. .. .7 p.m.

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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