‘Two sides to every story,’ says Stormy Liberal's owner

December 10, 2019 04:18pm
‘Two sides to every story,’ says Stormy Liberal's owner
Photo: Benoit

David Bernsen, who this week made an outright purchase of champion turf horse Stormy Liberal from partner Rockingham Ranch, said in an email Tuesday that “there are two sides to every story” when it comes to the veteran gelding’s future.

Miller, in a news release issued earlier in the day, said Stormy Liberal would be leaving his barn to run for another trainer because “both my veterinarian and I believe the horse should be retired.”

Bernsen asserted that Stormy Liberal’s departure from Miller’s care follows a trend due to “growing personal concerns in doing business with Peter Miller for a couple of years since a well-publicized incident between he and a female employee at San Luis Rey Training Center.”

Miller was in March of 2018 suspended, fined and put on probation for what stewards at Santa Anita Park termed “derogatory words” toward a pregnant former employee. Miller told the Daily Racing Form at the time that Stephanie Murray, who went to work for trainer Doug O’Neill, “was trying to steal my help. That’s a no-no. I apologized. She apologized.”

“Over time, that combined with other concerns, the relationship eroded,” Bernsen added in his email. “In August, I began a process of removing and relocating some 18 horses I owned in partnership with Rockingham Ranch whom we have been blessed with some fantastic horses. This process has been quite thorough, which has included numerous conversations with vets and industry professionals.

“It has been difficult at times in that Rockingham Ranch still maintains a relationship with Peter Miller, so a number of factors were considered but at every decision, we opted to what was in the best interest of the horses. Most have been relocated to trainers across Kentucky, Florida and California that we felt were best suited for caring of the horses.”

In the case of Stormy Liberal, who won four straight races to close 2018 but had yet to win this season, Bernsen said he recommended an evaluation of the 7-year-old after he finished eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. Stormy Liberal had won consecutive runnings of that event in 2017-2018.

“Then, and only then, would a decision be made on whether he would continue to race based on consultation with the veterinary professionals,” Bernsen said. “If the decision to retire him was made, he would already be in Kentucky to go to Old Friends.”

Old Friends farm, the equine retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky., confirmed Tuesday that it has a spot for Stormy Liberal should connections opt to take it. First, Stormy Liberal is headed to 
David Scanlon's training center in Ocala, Fla., where Bernsen said “he will undergo a complete and detailed physical evaluation” before a retirement decision is made.

Stormy Liberal has looked a step slower this season, but he still managed five finishes on the board from seven starts. Stormy Liberal worked twice for Miller at San Luis Rey after the Breeders’ Cup, most recently on Nov. 23.

“Peter Miller never mentioned retirement of the horse until Monday after he was informed the horse was being removed from his barn that afternoon,” Bernsen said, “and in fact, it was my understanding that he was trying to run him at Del Mar just last week except the races did not fill.

Nor has any vet have advised me of retirement. After discussing this at length with Rockingham Ranch, and because of their continuing relationship with Peter Miller, by my owning the horse outright was the only way I could control the situation and ensure the best decision is made for Stormy.”

Messages left by Horse Racing Nation on Tuesday with Miller and Gary Hartunian, head of Rockingham Ranch, were not returned. Bernsen campaigns a number of top horses with Rockingham Ranch, including their other champion, the dirt sprinter Roy H.


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