For his actions at the Maryland Hunt Cup, Todd McKenna’s National Steeplechase Association owner and trainer licenses were suspended until June 1, 2018, a punishment many felt far too lenient, but, actually, the amount of leniency may be in the wording of the Steward’s ruling, “may not reapply to be licensed until June 1, 2018.”
“There’s no guarantee his license will be given to him again next June,” said Duncan Patterson, one of the three stewards, along with chairman Dwight Hall and Francis Abbott, who heard the case on May 16.
Todd’s brother Trevor’s jockey license was also revoked until June 1, 2018.
Todd was seen by a number of people kicking Serene Harbor in the stomach, presumably in an effort to keep the horse, who appeared to be colicing, from lying down on his way to the paddock in the Maryland Hunt Cup on April 29.
Serene Harbor did lie down in the paddock and was subsequently scratched from the race by the veterinarian.
Trevor rode Great Halo, who stopped at the third fence in the Hunt Cup.
Trevor was seen by the large crowd around the fence to punch Great Halo.
The Maryland Hunt Cup Stewards suspended both brothers and referred the matter to the Stewards Advisory Committee for further review and determination of ultimate penalty.
The numerous people contacted by The Horse of Delaware Valley all criticized the terrible tempers of both brothers, the stupidity of their actions in front of thousands of spectators, the black eye they gave steeplechasing and their complete and utter lack of horsemanship.
The great majority said that they felt Todd should receive a life suspension.
The idea of taking a horse that is in distress, either colicing or tying up, to the paddock for any race, much less the daunting Maryland Hunt Cup with its solid five-foot fences, is unbelievable.
Suppose that somehow the horse had been allowed to start, the horse could have died of a twisted gut, he could have fallen and seriously injured himself and his jockey, even bringing other horses and jockeys down, he could have stopped at a fence, possibly causing other horses’ problems.
“If they act like that in front of a huge crowd, imagine what they must do when they’re alone,” was the comment of one observer.
After the Hunt Cup, both brothers then went to the after-party, leaving both horses, including the distressed Serene Harbor, in their van.
TODD, REPRESENTED by a lawyer, went to court in Maryland to try to have the Maryland Steward’s suspension lifted so that he could run his horses in race meets prior to his hearing by the Steward Advisory Committee, but the judge turned him down.
“Todd had a lawyer at his hearing,” said Patterson of McKenna’s hearing on May 16. “He had a very high powered attorney, Joel Turner. In fact, he had two lawyers, the one for trying to get his suspension lifted and the one for this hearing.”
“Todd jeopardized the health and welfare of the horse, and he jeopardized the safety of the rider,” said Patterson.
Although Patterson wouldn’t say it, the fear of a long and costly court battle should NSA revoke Todd’s license for life must have entered into their considerations.
Other impositions of life suspension have been overruled in court as that would take away a person’s livelihood.
By making Todd reapply for his owner and trainer licenses in a year, the stewards can turn him down.
In fact, the stewards can turn him down year after year if they so choose.
A number of people interviewed by The Horse said Todd’s suspension might be a moot point if his owners continued to keep their horses with the trainers they transferred them to after his suspension.
They felt owners would be leery of putting their horses with a trainer who had acted as Todd had.
The ruling for Todd stated, “The 2017 NSA owner and trainer licenses issued to Todd McKenna shall remain suspended for the balance of 2017.
“Mr. McKenna shall remain under suspension and be ineligible for reinstatement and may not apply to be licensed until June 1, 2018.”
The ruling for Trevor included “Based upon the testimony, which corroborated that Mr. McKenna did, in fact, punch Great Halo, the Stewards Advisory Committee affirms the Maryland Hunt Cup Steward’s ruling….”
“For his violation of the NSA’s rules, the egregious nature of his conduct, the need to reaffirm that there is no tolerance for the physical abuse of horses and the need to deter such conduct by anyone now and in the future, the Stewards Advisory Committee has determined that Mr. McKenna’s 2017 NSA jockey license shall be revoked immediately, and that he may not apply for reinstatement until June 1, 2018.”
Both brothers, during the period of their suspensions, are denied access to the grounds of a NSA sanctioned race meet.
“Trevor wasn’t represented by a lawyer,” said Patterson. “And, Trevor was remorseful, unlike his brother. What happened with Trevor happened in the heat of the moment, which still doesn’t excuse it.”