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Updated on 06/04/2011 1:21PM
Dutrow defends himself; no verdict likely until August
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – While admitting that it “would be more than fair’’ to suggest he has had a checkered past, Richard Dutrow Jr. said Friday that he has never drugged a horse, is proud of what he has accomplished as a horse trainer, and believes he has been good for the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
Now, Dutrow must hope members of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board agree.
Dutrow testified for 57 minutes Friday afternoon on the final day of a three-day hearing the board called at its Schenectady headquarters for the purpose of deciding whether to suspend or possibly revoke his trainer’s license for a history of past rules violations. Those violations include a 60-day suspension for one of his horses, Fastus Cactus, testing positive for the drug butorphanol last Nov. 20 at Aqueduct and a 30-day suspension for the finding of three syringes loaded with the drug xylazine in his Aqueduct barn office last Nov. 3.
Those suspensions are under appeal and were the focus of several days of testimony earlier in the week. Despite long hours of testimony Tuesday and Thursday, there was no clear-cut resolution on how or if Fastus Cactus was treated with butorphanol, a painkiller, or how the syringes of xylazine, a painkiller and muscle relaxer, got into Dutrow’s desk drawer.
For all intents and purposes the hearing concluded Friday, but a resolution to the case won’t be reached until, most likely, sometime in August. There are some motions to be filed by attorneys and a report to be submitted by the racing board hearing officer Clem Parente – who presided over the three-day hearing – that will take time to complete. A final ruling on the case will be made by the three members of the racing board, none of whom was present during the hearing. There is still the possibility of one other witness being called down the road, possibly board chairman John Sabini, who was not in his office Thursday or Friday.
Dutrow’s New York license is up for renewal on Aug. 5 – his 52nd birthday. Dutrow has already been denied a license in Kentucky and, as a result, did not apply for a license in New Jersey. His 80 horses are stabled between Aqueduct and Saratoga.
Friday afternoon, Dutrow was called to testify by his attorney, Michael Koenig, and though he appeared apprehensive and puzzled at times, he was passionate and succinct when asked why he wanted to continue to be a horse trainer.
“It’s my life,’’ said Dutrow, who acknowledged that he quit school at age 16 and went directly to the racetrack to work for his father, the highly successful late trainer Richard Dutrow Sr.
In the March 2 memorandum that called for the hearing, the board said it would seek to determine if Dutrow should be expelled from New York racing because his conduct has been “improper, obnoxious, unbecoming and detrimental to the best interests of racing.’’
“I don’t know what obnoxious means and I really don’t care what it means,’’ Dutrow said during his testimony. “People that know me are not going to think that of me. Like the three investigators that testified here, they had personal contact with me, they’ve been with me for a long time and they told you their feelings toward me.
“I know there’s people out there that don’t like me, I can’t help that,’’ Dutrow said. “I get out there and I do the best we can for us. I don’t think that I’m bad for the game; I think I’m very good for the game. I’ve brought a number of clients into the game, I’m a hard worker. We keep the same help in our stable for years. I’m very proud of what I’ve done.’’
Before Dutrow testified, Koenig called several character witnesses on behalf of Dutrow, including the retired Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero Jr., the highly respected equine veterinarian Larry Bramlage, and two of Dutrow’s owners, Samantha Siegel and Kenneth Page, who have known Dutrow since he was a youngster.
Bramlage, one of the head veterinarians at the Rood and Riddle equine clinic in Lexington, Ky., praised Dutrow for recognizing problems in horses early enough where they can be resolved, something he said only a handful of trainers can do.
“His problems are recognized early and therefore we have a chance to save the quality and longevity of the horse, whereas in some instances if a horse gets too far into the disease it’s difficult to bring them back,’’ Bramlage said. “That’s not the case with Rick. From my examination … his horses are impeccably cared for and most importantly he’s very good at picking out their problems early, being good to the horse and getting them taken care of very quickly.’’
“There was no evidence to suggest that Rick should lose his license,’’ Koenig said after the hearing. “To the contrary, the evidence was that he is good for the sport. The perception of Rick Dutrow that you see when you Google him was undercut by the actual testimony we heard of live witnesses both who we called as witnesses and equally important those that the State Racing and Wagering board called as witnesses.’’
During cross examination from the state attorney Rick Goodell – a cousin of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell – Dutrow was reminded of a laundry list of violations in his career for which he has been fined and his license suspended. That includes positives for drugs such as the anesthetic mepivacaine and clenbuterol, a bronchial dialator that can build muscle; a violation of claiming rules; having contact with his barn and/or owners while under suspension; and providing misleading information during an investigation regarding the horse Wild Desert, who won the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine in 2005 for trainer Bobby Frankel.
“I’m not going to argue with the clenbuterol because I use it,’’ Dutrow said. The drug is legal to use while training horses but is not permissible to be found in post-race samples on race day in New York. “I can see how sometimes some of my horses come up with an overage of that. That’s a simple mistake by barn handlers and that has happened in my barn twice. I never argued clenbuterol, but the drug thing I’ll fight to the end on them – I don’t drug the horses.’’
Dutrow claims he had never heard of butorphanol until this case came up. He also said he has not found out how those three syringes got into his office drawer.
“Since all this went down I’ve taken everything out of my barn and put it back in,’’ Dutrow said. “I put cameras up around my barn, there are 15 different shots. I do what I can.’’
Now, Dutrow will have to wait to find out if it’s enough.
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