10/13/2011 4:40PM

Dutrow faces hurdles even with stay of ban


Even if Richard Dutrow Jr. receives a stay of a 10-year ban handed down Wednesday by New York regulators, the trainer is facing serious short-term hardships that could cripple or end his long and controversial career.

At least one of Dutrow's owners has already decided to place his horses with other trainers, and racetracks are exploring whether to exclude Dutrow even if the ban is stayed while Dutrow appeals. And although courts have historically granted stays when a trainer is facing a ban, the severity of the penalty handed down by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board – and the unprecedented circumstances surrounding it – may provide a judge with sufficient grounds to deny the stay, according to legal experts.

It all adds up to a dire outlook for Dutrow, a lightning-rod trainer who is respected on the backstretch as a horseman but whose long history of violations has made him a poster child for a litany of the sport’s problems. As a measure of Dutrow’s public reputation, the animal-welfare organization PETA sent a congratulatory bouquet of flowers to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Thursday for banning the trainer.

The ban does not take effect until Tuesday, and Dutrow, 52, is scheduled to appear with his attorney, Michael Koenig, in a state court in Schenectedy on Monday morning to request a stay. Koenig will argue that board members were influenced by conflicts of interest and that Dutrow deserves the due process afforded by civil courts before he has his livelihood taken from him.

The due process argument has a history of success in similar cases but may not win this time, according to Alan Foreman, an equine lawyer who has represented dozens of trainers and jockeys in similar cases – though never one for such a long ban.

“I haven’t ever seen a license get revoked along with a 10-year penalty, and the state is going to make very, very forceful arguments that this goes to the core of the integrity of the game,” Foreman said. “This is a far different issue than any I have ever seen.”

Even if the judge grants the stay and allows Dutrow to train while his appeal is heard – a process that would almost certainly take at least a year – the owners of Dutrow’s horses may not choose to stick with him. Paul Pompa Jr., for example, a co-owner of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner and 3-year-old champion Big Brown, said Thursday that he has decided to remove his five horses from Dutrow’s care, sending them to other trainers such as Chad Brown, Bill Mott, or Todd Pletcher.

“I’ve had a lot of success with Rick, I like Rick personally, but there’s just too much uncertainty right now,” Pompa said.

Samantha Siegel, who has about a dozen horses with Dutrow, said she would stick with Dutrow unless the stay is denied.

“Every horse should be so lucky to be in Rick’s barn,” Siegel said. “He spoils those horses. I think this is absolutely crazy.”

Several of Dutrow’s other owners did not return phone calls requesting comment. The owners may be waiting for Dutrow’s appearance in court, and they may be reluctant to publicize that they are relocating their horses, considering the deep friendships Dutrow has forged with them.

Dutrow is already unable to run in Kentucky and New Jersey. In Kentucky, the licensing committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission denied the trainer’s license application earlier this year, citing his record of violations and inaccuracies on the filing. In New Jersey, Dutrow declined to apply for a license renewal, fearing the license would be denied because of Kentucky’s ruling.

If Dutrow’s request for a stay is denied, all U.S. racing jurisdictions will uphold the ban until a court rules otherwise. But if the stay is allowed, Dutrow may still face problems racing in other states because tracks can generally exclude licensed trainers and other workers from their premises.

Already, Gulfstream officials are contemplating banning Dutrow from the track’s winter meet that starts Dec. 3, according to Dan Bork, the track’s racing secretary. Dutrow normally keeps a large string at Gulfstream in the winter.

“The short answer is that right now there is no answer,” Bork said when asked if Dutrow would be allowed on the grounds. “He has applied for stalls, but we’ll be in discussions over the next week or so to determine if he will be with us this winter.”

Officials at the New York Racing Association said they would withhold comment about until the court has its say on Monday.

“He’s obviously going to appeal,” said Charles Hayward, the NYRA chief executive and president. “At this point, we’re going to take our direction from the racing and wagering board and the courts.”