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Commando clan files complaint

Owner challenges disqualification of Suicide Race horse

Abe Grunlose, No. 1, on Commando catches the field during Aug. 11’s World-Famous Suicide Race.

Photo by Al Camp


Abe Grunlose, No. 1, on Commando catches the field during Aug. 11’s World-Famous Suicide Race.

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— A World-Famous Suicide Race owner and a jockey filed a complaint Oct. 10 in Colville Tribal court against the Owners and Jockeys Association.

Lucille Pakootas, who owns the horse Commando, and jockey Abe Grunlose alleged they should have not been disqualified in the Sunday, Aug. 11, running of the race.

The association produces a race after each performance of Omak Stampede Rodeo.

“Lucille is really upset about this,” said Jerry Floresca, who trained the horse and was present at the disqualification. “She has been upset.”

Contention centers on who complained about the start, what a starting line video showed, conflict of interest due to who is related to whom and wording or interpretation of an alleged rule that disqualified Commando.

“I don’t know what will become of this, I hope for the best,” Floresca said. “The attorney thinks it is a good case.

“Most people would not go this far. They would keep complaining and complaining and not do anything about it. Lucille is determined to do something about it.”

Someone complained about the start, which triggered a review of a video of the starting line by the association’s five-person committee.

Association President Aaron Carden, who is listed as a respondent, announced the disqualification about an hour after the race.

SKARTAR had a large lead as the horses cleared the top of the hill.

Starter Arnold St. Pierre told the committee SKARTAR jumped the gun and was disqualified. There was nothing said by St. Pierre, Carden or Preston Boyd about Commando having an illegal start.

Carden told owners and jockeys at several meetings that if someone challenged a start, and a review found other horses illegally starting besides the one being questioned, the other horses would also be disqualified.

Carden said a disqualification included having a hoof over the starting line at the start.

The complainants say they were never shown the video, and dispute the rule being any hoof would disqualify a horse, saying only front hoofs over the line should disqualify a horse.

The complaint alleges the “hoof rule” does not appear in rules given to owners and jockeys.

Grunlose, on Commando, got sideways prior to the start, bumping Jake. Grunlose was wearing a Go Pro camera on his helmet, which shows he was looking sideways at the start.

A review of the starting line video by the association’s five-person committee, due to a complaint about SKARTAR leaving too soon, came after a photo finish between Commando and Progress with jockey Rocky Timentwa.

SKARTAR was disqualified, but the review of the tape by the association’s committee allegedly found Commando in violation at the start due to a hoof over the line.

Commando, which entered the Okanogan River in 11th place out of 12 horses, produced a strong swim to pass horses before nipping Progress at the finish line.

Jake was third.

The complaint included two letters to the Colville Business Council.

“We were so happy and in disbelief at what we just witnessed,” Etta Grunlose said in an Aug. 19 letter sent by her and Pakootas to the business council complaining about the disqualification.

“It was a miracle to say the least,” Etta Grunlose said.

The letter, which was part of the filing with the tribe, said Carden demonstrated at three meetings how a horse could be disqualified at the start.

“He drew a line in the dirt and said, ‘OK, here’s the starting line, the horse’s head can be over the line . . . do you all understand?’

“Aaron demonstrated with his own two feet and he leaned over so his head was over the line . . . he did this a couple times,” Etta Grunlose wrote in the letter.

The letter asked for due process, to view the tape and confront accusers so rebuttal could be given. It also listed several conflicts of interest including that a five-person committee member, Julie Bock, was the mother of Timentwa, who with Progress, was declared winner.

Bock said she viewed the video then disqualified herself from the committee’s decision making.

The letter also said the finish line video recorder was part-owner of Progress and had access to the starting line video, the association’s secretary is Timentwa’s girlfriend and she had access to the starting line video.

A committee member during a swim test prior to the races allegedly did not want to pass Commando while the rest of the committee voted to pass the horse, the letter said.

“I thought that with this new committee everything would go smoothly, and yet it did not,” Etta Grunlose said in the letter. “Too many conflicts and discrepancies.”

The letter sought a hearing so all evidence for disqualifying Commando could be presented.

The complainants sent another letter Aug. 22 through attorney Mark J. Carroll of Chelan to the tribal council and to Omak Stampede. Carroll also maintains an office in Okanogan.

That letter said Commando should have been awarded earnings estimated at $3,000 for the horse, $2,000 for Abe Grunlose and $1,000 for Pakootas for winning the Sunday Calcutta.

The letter alleges Arnold Abrahamson disputed the race finish. He and Halee Abrahamson are listed as owners of Progress.

“Aaron Carden’s decision to arbitrarily disqualify Commando was inaccurate, incorrect and did not follow the race rules,” Carroll’s letter said. The attorney also mentioned an “alleged video” showed Commando having stepped over the alleged start line.

The letter said race rules for 2013 did not include any provision for a start line, only for an official finish line.

Carroll said Pakootas was seeking a reconsideration of the decision to disqualify Commando.

“She is willing to present her videos to your organizations,” Carroll wrote. “She is willing to attend the tribe’s peacemaking circle with all your organizations representatives to resolve this issue.”

The council did not respond to the two letters, Floresca said.

The complaint, which followed, alleges Carden, when asked if a horse’s back feet were over the line, said, “if your front feet are behind the line and you want to start like that, ha, ha, ha,” the complaint said.

The complaint alleges breach of contract, breech of implied contract, interference with a prospective advantage or business expectancy and breach of the history, customs and traditions of the tribes and bands that make up the Colville Confederated Tribes.

The complaint seeks declaratory judgment including damages against respondents, jointly and severally, a judgment that Commando was the undisputed winner of the Aug. 11 World-Famous Suicide Race, fees and costs.

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