Horse Death Spurs Investigation at Mountaineer Racetrack

The West Virginia Racing Commission (WVRC) is investigating the April 19 death of a horse in the receiving barn at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, in Chester, W.Va.

Officials are looking into the cause of death, any violations that occurred at the time of death, and how reporting and protocol were handled after the death of Slippin' Around, who was scheduled to run in the ninth race April 19 at Mountaineer.

WVRC executive director Jon Amores said the investigation includes trainer Kathy Jarvis, adding that her handling of the situation would play into "how heavy the hammer would be," if a penalty is assessed. Amores, who said he did not know if a necropsy was conducted on Slippin' Around, said WVRC investigator Mike Vapner, a retired Wheeling, W.Va. police officer, also will look at the actions of WVRC staff and anyone else involved.

Jarvis had entered Slippin' Around, a homebred 5-year-old Storm Boot mare for Jeffrey Jarvis' AFM Stables, in the $5,000 claiming event. The horse died in the receiving barn before the race and, while the WVRC was providing few details, a full investigation has been launched.

"This is graver than most cases but just like any other situation where there's a potential violation of the rules, we've ordered an investigation," Amores said. "Now we're just in the process of seeing it completed and providing it to the stewards."

Stewards at Mountaineer declined comment and Amores said Vapner would not be able to comment until the investigation was complete.

One aspect of the investigation is focused on the apparent failure to report the horse's death to stewards. West Virginia racing rules require trainers to promptly report serious injury or death of their horses to the stewards and a racing commission veterinarian. Amores confirmed this is part of the investigation but the inquiry extends beyond that issue.

"The real issue is, what happened? Regardless of if there was an abandonment (of the dead or dying horse), what caused that terrible occurrence to happen? That's really the point of the investigation and it will flush out what happened after that," Amores said. "The horse collapsed. Was there an abandonment? The essential question is just what occurred and what possible violations we have?"

Jarvis did not return a phone call from The Blood-Horse about the incident. In 15 race dates at Mountaineer between April 19 and May 7, Jarvis had not started a horse at the track. In the ten previous racing dates, before April 19, Jarvis started five horses at Mountaineer.

Jarvis has continued to saddle horses in Ohio and Indiana. For the year she has five wins from 48 starts and purse earnings of $62,990.

The day after Slippin' Around's death, a horse entered by Jarvis for AFM Stables, Big Albert, is listed as a veterinarian scratch from the eighth race at Mountaineer. On May 8 at Indiana Downs, Jarvis saddled Big Albert to an 11th-place finish in an allowance-optional claiming race. The May 8 date falls after the 10-day period in which horses are ineligible to race if they are scratched by a veterinarian in West Virginia.

Amores said the investigation results would be given to the stewards who will take any needed action.

"We found out about it and now the wheels are in motion. Our investigator's taking statements," Amores said. "All we know now is that a horse died in the receiving barn and we're taking appropriate action. We're regulators, so all we do is try to protect our horses and our jockeys and the wagering public. To that end, as a director, I'm not down in the weeds doing the investigation but our investigators are gathering the information that needs to be reviewed by the stewards."

Originally published on

About the Author

Frank Angst

Frank Angst is a staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine. An American Horse Publications three-time winner in best news story category, Angst has covered horse racing for more than a decade. Angst spent ten years at Thoroughbred Times, where he earned awards as that magazine’s senior writer and helped launch Thoroughbred Times TODAY. Besides covering horse racing, Angst enjoys handicapping. Angst has written about sports for more than 20 years, including several seasons covering a nationally ranked Marshall Thundering Herd football team.

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