Horse trainer Patrick Biancone is mad as an adder.
In 2007, the Kentucky Horse Racking Authority suspended the native-Frenchman after investigators found several vials of snake venom in his barns. Cobra juice, a forbidden substance, can be used to block pain in horses.
Now, more than three year later, Biancone is back in game, but he doesn't appear to have found his sense of humor about the past.
No, instead, Biancone is going after one of the big names in the sport – George Strawbridge Jr., an heir to the Campbell Soup fortune – for making what appears to be a careless remark about him at a dinner function.
In a defamation lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Biancone of Arcadia accuses Strawbridge, a long-time Thoroughbred owner and former member of the Forbes list of richest Americans, of giving a speech to a bunch of horse people in October at the Thoroughbred Club of America in Kentucky.
Strawbridge allegedly told the crowd:
We all know the story of the 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.
Now, it seems to us that Strawbridge was probably using that old storytelling technique of hyperbole when addressing the room that fateful night, and most likely did not think his words would be put to the legal test.
But the mighty Strawbridge was wrong.
Biancone claims that, “Truth in fact,” he is eligible to race and train horses in jurisdictions throughout the country and “is not banned in the rest of the world.”
What's more, claims the literal-minded Biancone, he “never possessed any amount of snake venom let alone 'enough snake venom to poison a small country.'”
At the risk of belaboring this, let's quickly dissect the arguments:
First, Strawbridge supposedly said Biancone was banned across the globe. Biancone was in fact suspended from Kentucky racing for 6 months back in 2007 after the snake juice incident and was suspended from racing in Hong Kong in 1999 after a pair of his horses tested positive for banned substances.
But no, it does not appear that Biancone is actually banned throughout the world.
Second, Biancone says he “never possessed” any snake venom. According to the State of Kentucky, when investigators found three vials of cobra venom at Biancone's stables, it was concealed inside of a red bag in a refrigerator labeled with the name of his veterinarian, Dr. Rodney Stewart.
Stewart received a five-year suspension. Biancone was suspended for six months for possession at the stables and for failing to report that his vet was storing cobra venom on site.
As for the quantity, we don't know if three vials of cobra venom is enough to poison a small country … hopefully the courts will.