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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


After completing an extensive medical evaluation of Stormy Liberal that was overseen by David Scanlon of Ocala, Florida, I am announcing that the two-time Breeders’ Cup winner and reigning North American Older Turf Champion has been retired and will be relocated to Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, Kentucky.

I feel it is important for the industry and the welfare of all racehorses to provide some transparency as to the process involved. Stormy Liberal was competitive in his first six races of 2019, with two seconds and three thirds at the highest levels, but I began to have concerns about his condition after his race in September.

I spoke with one of his attending vets and was told that Stormy was very sound. In the days following the Breeders’ Cup I discussed my concerns with my partner Gary Hartunian of Rockingham Ranch and strongly urged that we send Stormy to Rood & Riddle in Lexington, Kentucky for a complete medical evaluation.

If he was sound we could discuss future racing options, if not, he would already be in Kentucky to retire to Old Friends. Before we could reach an agreement to send him to Kentucky, on November 16, I saw a registered work was reported for Stormy Liberal at San Luis Rey Training Center, and was told that the trainer (whom I had no contact with since August) planned on running him in a race at Del Mar at the end of November.

I disagreed with that plan and, as a minority partner, I asked for a complete independent vet exam (which never occurred) before any such race, and my partner and I agreed that following any race he would go to Rood & Riddle as I had requested.

On November 23 there was another registered work at San Luis Rey Training Center and I was told that he was being entered at Del Mar that weekend. My understanding was that he was entered for several days in a race that did not fill. Shortly after, on December 2nd , I read a story by Steve Anderson of the Daily Racing Form that Stormy Liberal had tested positive for Bute in his September race and the trainer was fined.

In consultation with my partner Rockingham Ranch, we agreed that the best course of action for me to get the evaluation I had been requesting completed was for me take sole ownership, remove Stormy from the current trainer, and relocate the horse to David Scanlon in Florida for a complete physical inspection.

In discussion with Mr. Scanlon, we agreed on a two-stage process. First, an extensive racing soundness exam that included x-rays, scans and bloodwork, followed by a more extensive procedure known as a ‘nuke scan’. After Stormy passed the initial test, we then conducted the ‘nuke scan’ of his entire body to make sure nothing was missed.

This was conducted this past Monday, and Mr. Scanlon and the primary veterinarian saw an irregularity that did not show up on x-rays or in the initial exam and they decided to go one step further with a MRI on both ankles.

The diagnosis was… “Stormy Liberal has full thickness cartilage defects on the palmar (back) aspect of the medial condyles in both front fetlocks. These lesions present a significant risk for future athletic soundness. He needs a minimum of 6-8 months off/out of training”

Based on the above results, Stormy Liberal has been immediately retired and will spend the next month in Florida before being transferred to Old Friends on an agreement I had previously reached with Mr. Michael Blowen of Old Friends.

I would like to also personally thank David Scanlon and the medical team involved for uncovering a previously undiagnosed condition and their help through this process. Myself and Gary Hartunian of Rockingham Ranch are immensely grateful to have been able to race such a magnificent horse, and hope his retirement to Old Friends will benefit all retired horses.

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One Response

  1. Good job Mr Bernsen. Thank you for sharing with the HRI Faithful — and obviously for doing what is in the best interests of your hickory, courageous champion, Stormy Liberal.

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