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Polo Team Wants Millions for Poisoned Horses

WELLINGTON, Fla. (CN) - A Venezuelan polo team wants at least $4 million from the pharmacy that accidentally poisoned 21 of its prized horses at the U.S. Open Polo Championship last year. The horses collapsed just hours before the Open began, and by the end of the weekend all of the thoroughbreds that received the pharmacy's tainted nutritional supplement had died.

The horses' owners, Quorum Management and polo players Juan Martin Nero, Guillermo Caset, and Nicolas Espain, filed a negligence complaint in Palm Beach County Court describing the death of their mounts.

"Shortly after [their] polo horses were administered the nutritional supplement ... the horses went into cardiac arrest," the complaint states.

The crowd watched in horror as the horses stumbled and fell. Within minutes, the Palm Beach Polo Club's carefully tended grass was littered with the bodies of paralyzed horses.

"Some of the horses dropped as they were entering the tournament grounds," the players' attorney, Alvaro Mejer, said in an interview.

Mejer said the supplement was supposed to contain a balanced mixture of potassium, magnesium and selenium, to help the horses recover from training. But a technician at Franck's mistakenly added far too much selenium, enough for a deadly dose, he said.

Franck's Pharmacy admitted in a statement that it had, in fact, mixed the supplement incorrectly.

Though selenium is an essential trace element for enzyme production in animals, it is toxic at levels as low as 1 mg/kg of bodyweight, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Franck's mistake illustrates that any error in handling selenium for injection has dire consequences: a few grams of selenium is enough to kill a 1,000-lb. horse.

Autopsies of selenium-poisoned horses performed by the Journal of Agricultural Research have revealed multiple-organ failure and coagulated, black blood.

Quorum owned 12 of the Venezuelan team's horses and insured them under a policy with Diamond State. According to the complaint, Diamond State paid a $1.3 million claim after the horses died.

Mejer said that Quorum and the team have suffered more than $4 million in damages. He declined to comment on the progress of a prospective settlement with Franck's.


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