Holding fast to its zero tolerance policy toward horse slaughter, Suffolk Downs decided to ban five trainers who were involved–although all claim unknowingly–in an incident that violated the new code.

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer for East Boston, Mass., racetrack, said Nov. 13 officials received a call from an anonymous source a couple of weeks ago who suspected that five of Suffolk’s horses were en route to a livestock auction in New Holland, Pa. Slaughterhouse agents are known to frequent the sale.

“We have a process in place to deal with unwanted horses at the end of the meet,” said Tuttle, referring to the track’s newly established retirement placement program. “The timeline for that process may not necessarily fit for everybody, but it’s very easy to ensure that this doesn’t happen, and the way to do that is to follow the process. What happened here was clearly that some of these individuals chose to do things differently, and the end result was not consistent with what we want to happen.”

According to witnesses and track officials, trainer Pam Pompell acquired the horses from other trainers Wayne Sargent Jr., Gerry LaFleur, and Tony D’Angelo. The horses–Tiny Target, Jimmy the Gov, Arrested Gatorgirl, Tercia de Reinas, and Storm Up Front–had all been unsuccessful in their careers and had been running in low-level races.

Sargent, LaFleur, and D’Angelo, who gave their horses away at no charge, thought Pompell was sending them to a farm to be retrained for other types of riding programs.

“We had no idea that those horses were going in that direction,” LaFleur said. “The people who took the horses were supposed to take them to a riding academy.”

LaFleur said he had made arrangements with Suffolk’s retirement program to tak