Owner wants probe into reason horse removed from major race

September 14, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Racehorse Confucius Say has impressed local horsemen with its ability, and horse racing experts said the thoroughbred was an obvious favorite for winning the Charles Town Dash Invitational Handicap race July 4 at Charles Town Races & Slots.

"I think he's the best local horse I've ever seen," longtime Jefferson County horse owner Jim Casey said.

Local horse owners said there was one horse that could beat Confucius Say, and that was a horse by the name of Forest Park, owned by home builder Dan Ryan.

But Forest Park was removed from the Independence Day race, and some horse owners are telling a complicated, detailed story of how the primary competition was eliminated from the race.

And they do not like how it unfolded.

Investigation request

An attorney representing Ryan has asked the state Racing Commission to investigate the actions of local Horsemens Benevolent and Protective Association President Randy Funkhouser in the elimination of Forest Park from the race.


Confucius Say, owned by Funkhouser, easily won the race, giving Funkhouser and others about $80,000 in winnings, HBPA board of directors member Ken Lowe said.

Funkhouser is affiliated with O'Sullivan Farms off W.Va. 51 west of Charles Town and is a longtime horse breeder and horse owner in Jefferson County, Lowe said.

About a dozen horse owners and HBPA members gathered in a meeting room Thursday afternoon at an office building on U.S. 340 north of Charles Town to express concerns about the series of events.

"It's all about integrity, and this doesn't have any integrity attached to it at all," said horse owner and former HBPA president Ann Hilton.

Lowe, a local business owner and developer, read a statement saying Funkhouser contacted the West Virginia Racing Commission July 2 to file a complaint against Forest Park.

That was out of the ordinary because the track's racing stewards are supposed to be involved in removing - or "scratching" - a horse from a race, and they were not in this case, Lowe said.

Also on July 2, a letter from Martin & Seibert law firm was faxed to the state Racing Commission stating that the local HBPA - its client - was protesting the entry of Forest Park in the race, Lowe said.

No HBPA board members were contacted regarding scratching Forest Park from the race, Lowe said.

Law firm's letter

At Thursday's meeting, Lowe distributed a July 26 letter from Glenn Bushel of Tydings and Rosenberg LLP, a law firm representing Ryan.

The letter, sent to the West Virginia Racing Commission, requests that Funkhouser's racing permit be suspended or revoked and that his share of the purse from the July 4 race be forfeited.

Bushel also requested in the letter that the racing commission investigate the matter.

On Sept. 6, Funkhouser called an emergency meeting of the HBPA board of directors, Lowe said.

During the meeting, attorney Clarence E. "CEM" Martin of Martin and Seibert law firm attempted to persuade the board that Funkhouser acted correctly and the board ended up supporting Funkhouser's action by a 5-4 vote, Lowe said.

Martin said Thursday that he did not persuade anyone to do anything and only gave them options. Lowe said not all board members were at the meeting and the vote would have been different had they been there.

Horsemen said Thursday that Funkhouser and an attorney from Martin and Seibert claimed Forest Park should not be allowed to compete in the July 4 race because it was on a veterinarians list at Delaware Park.

Lowe said he has proof that Forest Park was eligible to compete in the race.

"I think it should be investigated thoroughly," Hilton said at Thursday's meeting.

Lowe said a HBPA board meeting is scheduled for noon Monday at the Town House Restaurant at 672 E. Washington St. and horse owners want the situation discussed "in total candor and truthfulness."

Martin on Thursday refuted Lowe's claim that Forest Park was eligible to run in the race.

In order for a horse to run in a race, it must be continuously eligible from the "day of entry" for a race, and Forest Park was not in this case, Martin said.

Martin also defended Funkhouser's right to act solely in the matter.

Martin said Funkhouser did not have a lot of time to deal with the matter, and as HBPA president Funkhouser has the authority to act in the best interests of the organization.

In regards to Bushel's letter, Martin said many of his claims are invalid.

West Virginia Racing Commission officials could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

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