How and when and
why the horses were switched, if indeed they were, is still to be determined,
though certain details are known. On the evening of June 3, 1977 Cinzano and
Leb�n were loaded on a turboprop plane in Carrasco, Uruguay. The aircraft,
which also carried six Argentinian horses, continued to Tocumen Airport in
Panama City to pick up another horse named Boots Colonero, who was also
consigned to Gerard. In the case of Leb�n and Cinzano, import papers show Dr.
Gerard was acting as an agent in the purchase of the horses. Leb�n was bought
for $1,600 in Uruguay (after being sold at public auction shortly before for
$600). Gerard sold him to Jack Morgan, who had served as one of his veterinary
assistants for several years, for just under $10,000. Similarly, the Uruguayan
owner of Cinzano received $81,000 for his horse, and Gerard turned him over to
Tenafly, N.J. millionaire Joseph Taub for $150,000. Normally, an agent charges
10% commission, but Gerard had marked up Morgan's purchase 600% and Taub's
photographs accompanied the three horses on the flight, which arrived at 3:20
p.m. June 4 at Kennedy Airport in New York. However, there were diagrams of
their markings to help ascertain which animal was which. Leb�n was listed as a
bay 5-year-old with a white star on his face and Cinzano a bay 4-year-old with
a white star on his face and an easy-to-miss inch-long scar on his left
shoulder. Cinzano's star, as
was to note, was longer, lower and more
irregular in shape than Leb�n's.
The animals were
met by Gerard, Eugene Hammer of Cardinal Air Services, which was handling the
shipment, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture vet. Blood samples were taken to
make sure the horses were not suffering from contagious diseases, and the
horses were placed in a Lufthansa holding pen as they waited to be shipped to
the USDA quarantine station in Clifton, N.J. Once there, the horses were
isolated from other shipments and placed in quarantine until their blood
samples were passed by the USDA lab, a procedure that normally takes from 48 to
There is often
haste in unloading flights, and with nine horses aboard, this one was no
different. Hammer says, "We move the animals quickly, and as the horses are
led one by one down the ramp, vets say, O.K., this one's Jack Jones, and start
taking down markings. Then as another horse follows, they may realize the
second horse is Jack Jones, not the first. With two bay horses with stars, it
could be that the names on their head collar plates were what caught the USDA
vet's eye. That is a poor means of identification. En route, a groom may have
to remove head collars to calm the horses and when he puts them back on, he can
place them on the wrong horses."
Leb�n and Cinzano
were cleared by USDA chemists, and on June 11 were vanned to Gerard's
Muttontown, L.I. home. The next evening Cinzano is said to have suffered a
fractured skull and broken ankle at Gerard's farm. Reportedly, Gerard learned
of the accident while dining with friends, including horseman Frank Wright.
Gerard left the dinner party and asked Wright to bring one of the guests back
to his home if he did not return shortly. Wright did as he was asked and says
that on arriving at Gerard's home he learned that the animal had been
destroyed. He saw the body of a bay in the stable area.
At the time he
was shipped to the U.S., Cinzano was insured for $150,000. The policy was
written by the General Adjustment Bureau of Jericho, N.Y. on a London firm, and
it was to the GAB that Gerard would have had to report, while the animal was
still alive, that Cinzano had massive injuries.
representatives were queried about their handling of the Cinzano case last
week, they were cautious. "We have an obligation to our customers not to
discuss this matter," said Manager Pete Lombardo. "We're not talking.
We didn't do anything wrong."
companies pay off on a claim, two veterinarians, one acting on behalf of the
owner, the second for the insurer, must 1) certify that the horse is actually
dead, 2) that the body resembles the insured horse and 3) that the cause of
death is plausible—and this normally requires an autopsy. Did GAB have the
signatures of two vets? "Right," said Lombardo. Could one vet call in
another, one he wanted to verify a death? "They're professional men,"
said Lombardo. "They take the Hippocratic Oath, or something. We had no
reason to be suspicious of Dr. Gerard. After all, he was the vet for
Secretariat, wasn't he?"
Gerard signed an
insurance claim on behalf of Taub (who was paid off in August). The second vet,
whose name is on the document, is a longtime Gerard friend, Dr. Hap Hemphill.
Hemphill is not talking.
In recent years
Gerard has taken to wheeling and dealing in bloodstock, on the side, while
increasing his veterinary practice. He has been importing thoroughbreds from
South America, and there are horsemen who believe he has raced some of these
under other people's names while retaining ownership. Many states forbid vets
to own horses at tracks where they practice.