Mark Gerard, a prominent veterinarian who was imprisoned in 1980 for his role in a horse-switching scandal at Belmont Park, has surfaced in California and is the subject of an investigation regarding a horse that has run at Hollywood Park and Del Mar.
Racing investigators suspect that Gerard is involved in either the ownership or the training of Computadora, a 5-year-old Argentine-bred mare who ran poorly this summer in two races at Hollywood and one at Del Mar.
Gerard, who is licensed to practice veterinary medicine in California, still is considered to be in bad standing by state racing authorities in New York because of the 1977 ringer case at Belmont. Because of reciprocity agreements between states, Gerard would have difficulty obtaining a license to own horses in California, where veterinarians are not permitted to train horses.
Randy Mitton, an agent for the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau, a national agency that furnishes security at Santa Anita and Del Mar, would not comment on the Gerard investigation, except to acknowledge its existence. Mitton was active in the Belmont ringer investigation that preceded Gerard's conviction.
Mark Faden, a Long Island, N.Y., attorney who is listed as the owner of Computadora, denied in a telephone interview that the 50-year-old Gerard has a connection with the horse.
"This horse is my horse, and to say anything else would be libelous," Faden said. "Dr. Gerard has nothing to do with the ownership or the training of the horse."
Early this year in Florida, Ramona Smith, who has been identified as a friend of Gerard, was listed as the owner and trainer of Computadora.
Attempts to contact Gerard were unsuccessful.
Faden bought Computadora from a bloodstock agent for $70,000, but since arriving in California from Florida, the mare has finished ahead of only two horses in her three races. Earlier this year, she had a second, a fifth and a sixth in three starts at Gulfstream Park. Computadora won three races last year in Argentina and finished second and third in two stakes there.
Frank (Jimmy) Kilroe, vice president for racing at Santa Anita, said that Computadora would not be eligible for stall space at the track, where the Oak Tree season will begin Wednesday.
"Without getting into the Gerard thing, the horse couldn't get in here because she has such a poor record," Kilroe said.
Brooklyn-born and educated at Cornell University, Gerard treated 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, 1971 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Canonero II, and other top horses in New York.
In September of 1977 at Belmont Park, a 57-1 longshot listed as Lebon won a race and a bettor walked away from a window at the track with a cash payoff of almost $80,000.
Gerard was sentenced to a one-year jail term when it was proved that Lebon was actually Cinzano, who had been Uruguay's 3-year-old champion in 1976. Lebon, who closely resembled Cinzano, was a bleeder with a bad back who had once been sold for $900.
Gerard was represented by F. Lee Bailey at the trial, which also revealed that an insurance claim for $137,000 had been settled three months before the race, when a horse identified as Cinzano was reported to have accidentally died at Gerard's Long Island farm. The dead horse was actually the cheap Lebon.
Although Alice Gerard, the veterinarian's wife, testified under immunity that her husband told her he had won a lot of money betting on Lebon in the race in question at Belmont, Gerard's attorneys argued that their client hadn't cashed the winning tickets.
"It would be like robbing a bank and making a deposit 30 minutes later," one of the lawyers said. "If Dr. Gerard was involved in any kind of a switch, he wouldn't have been seen within 200 miles of the cashier's window."
The jury didn't believe him.