LOS ANGELES (CN) – A thoroughbred trainer claims that a well-known horse owner-breeder defamed him by falsely accusing him of possessing “enough snake venom to poison a small country.”
Patrick Biancone sued George Strawbridge Jr. for defamation, in Superior Court.
Biancone, of Arcadia, claims that during a keynote speech to the Thoroughbred Club of America about the use of banned medications in the sport, Strawbridge “maliciously spoke, published and uttered the following remarks in reference to the plaintiff: ‘We all know the story of a trainer caught with enough snake venom to poison a small country, and he is still training in the U.S. By the way, this trainer is banned in the rest of the world.'”
The remarks came 3 years after Biancone was suspended when cobra venom and other banned medications were found at his Keenland barn in Kentucky.
The venom, in crystalline form, can be used to suppress pain in joints or nerves.
The complaint states: “Defendant, George W. Strawbridge Jr., delivered the keynote speech as the ‘honored guest’ of the Thoroughbred Club of America at its dinner meeting on October 30, 2011, in Lexington, Kentucky. In attendance at that meeting were about 250 prominent owners and breeders of thoroughbred horses, all of whom are members of the potential client-customer constituency base for plaintiff’s race horse training business.”
The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority suspended Biancone for 6 months but he is now licensed in eight North American jurisdictions, according to industry publications.
Biancone says Strawbridge’s statements, later published online and in industry publications, were false.
Biancone seeks punitive damages for defamation.
He is represented by Steve Schwartz of Pasadena.
Schwartz declined to comment on Biancone’s behalf but told Courthouse News that Biancone was unaware that cobra venom was at Keenland, and said that it was the trainer’s veterinarian who was suspended for possession of the banned substances.
According to the complaint: “Truth in fact is that plaintiff is eligible to race and train horses in any jurisdiction which races thoroughbred horses in the world and ‘he is not banned in the rest of the world’ and he never possessed any amount of snake venom let alone ‘enough venom to poison a small country.'”
The statements constitute “slander per se” because they suggest that Biancone “committed a crime in connection with horse racing” and that he is “dishonest, abusive or negligent in the manner in which he trains and cares for his horses,” the complaint states.
Biancone describes Strawbridge as “a well-known member of the horse racing community, having bred and owned many thoroughbred race horse champions.” Strawberg has been a member of the Campbell Soup Co.’s board of directors and is also an educator, historian, investor and philanthropist.
An effort to reach Strawbridge at his stable in Pennsylvania was unsuccessful.