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Dutrow fires back over bad press
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Faced with a litany of bad press, what he believes to be a mischaracterization of his past indiscretions, and the possibility of losing his best horses, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. fought back Friday morning during a news conference held outside his Aqueduct barn.
Dutrow, who came under the national spotlight after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but finishing last in the Belmont Stakes with Big Brown, touched on a number of topics during a 30-minute meeting with about 10 reporters, including his use of medications in horses and the job he did getting Big Brown to the Triple Crown.
Dutrow spoke two days after he was notified that one of his horses, Salute the Count, had an overage of clenbuterol, a bronchodilator, after finishing second in the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint on May 2. Dutrow received a 15-day suspension for the violation. He formally appealed the suspension Friday, according to Lisa Underwood, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.
While Dutrow admitted that his barn made a mistake in the case of Salute the Count, he said he is appealing the suspension as long as he can so he can be around his horses, many of whom will be running in graded stakes in the next two weeks.
Dutrow, 48, is particularly upset with the assertion that he has 72 rulings against him, which has been widely reported by high-profile mainstream media outlets. Before the news conference, Dutrow had an exasperated look on his face when he reviewed a list of his infractions by the Association of Racing Commissioners International that included such negligible entries as not having foal papers on record or not having owner's colors in the jockeys' quarters. There are even multiple references in the list to his license being restored to good standing.
"This is what they're talking about?" Dutrow said.
Aside from violations regarding his own personal drug use, Dutrow has been cited for two equine positives involving clenbuterol and one for mepivacaine, for which he received suspensions and fines. There are seven references to overages of butazolidin and four overages of Lasix. Dutrow was fined for all, but suspended for only one of those infractions.
"I don't give Lasix, the vets do," Dutrow said. "Why are they counting that against me? My vet gave too much or gave it too late, is that my fault? They make it my fault."
Dutrow said he used to give Bute, an anti-inflammatory, to his horses the day before they ran, but "I don't do that anymore." Dutrow said he does give Bute paste to his horses after they have a workout.
Dutrow said he would be in favor if veterinarians were barred from the grounds, and said he welcomed a national set of medication rules. In typical Dutrow fashion, though, he bashed many of New York's leading trainers over the years, basically accusing them of cheating.
"How does Oscar Barrera go from winning no races for 30 years and then he becomes the best trainer that's ever trained horses in two years, then they stop him and he goes 0 for 140?'' Dutrow said. "The same thing with Gasper Moschera - where's he at? How did he get to be the man in New York by laying carpet, then they stop him and he gets out of the game. Peter Ferriola, Juan Serey. You look at this jerk down there [Gary] Contessa - how does he set records? How does he do it? C'mon, man, if everything is the same playing field, we're going to do as good if not better than anybody."
Contessa, who is the leading trainer in wins in New York, was dismissive of Dutrow's remarks.
"He's done more to hurt this business in the last three months than anybody has done,'' said Contessa, who is stabled five barns down from Dutrow at Aqueduct. "I'm still waiting for him to say something intelligent."
Dutrow was scheduled to appear before a congressional committee studying breakdowns and drugs in horse racing. Dutrow reiterated that he did not feel well enough to attend, but would have "if I had a gun to my head."
"They wanted to talk about breakdowns," Dutrow said. "Everybody looks at me like I'm a drug kind of guy, and if you're a drug kind of guy you're going to go out there and watch your horses break down. I want anybody here right now to tell me the last time you've seen one of my horses break down in the afternoon. You're not going to be able to find it because I'm safe, I'm sound, I protect my horses."
Dutrow said the last horse of his he recalls breaking down on the track was Lake Pontchartrain, who was vanned off following a last-place finish in the James Moseley Stakes at Suffolk Downs on June 2, 2001.
Dutrow also said that during the Triple Crown series too much attention was paid to his use of the steroid Winstrol on Big Brown. Dutrow said he deserves credit for getting the horse to the Derby. He said that few, if any, trainers would have raced the horse in a March 5 allowance race after not having trained him in January and only getting two breezes into him in February.
"I took a shot like I always do and it worked; nobody wants to talk about that," Dutrow said. "Instead, they're pounding on the Winstrol and clenbutrol and the things that look like they might be bad. I did a great job with the horse, you all, and you guys should be thinking about that and writing about that."
Before the press conference, Dutrow told Daily Racing Form about two equipment changes he made on Big Brown after the horse bore out winning the Florida Derby. Dutrow said he went from using a figure-eight and D-bit to a ring-bit and a noseband, which helped the horse retain a straighter course in the Kentucky Derby.
"I didn't come out and say all these things, but everybody's attacking me on these other things that don't add up to nothing," he said. "Why don't they look at the good things that we did? It's not fair."
At his side during the press conference was Michael Dubb, a longtime client of Dutrow's and part-owner of Salute the Count, who threw his unconditional support behind Dutrow.
"Rick Dutrow does not cheat," said Dubb, who has about 25 horses with Dutrow. "Rick Dutrow is all about his horses. He cares for his horses immensely. What happened with Salute the Count [is] he administered a legal - and I reiterate legal - medication too close to race day. It was during the Big Brown mania, no doubt an honest mistake."
The news of the positive came out just two days after one of Dutrow's biggest clients, International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Inc., announced its plans to stop using race-day medications other than Lasix on its horses after Oct. 1. Michael Iavarone, the co-president of IEAH, said he was angry that Dutrow did not inform him of the positive and admitted to considering removing all his horses from Dutrow's barn.
Iavarone said Friday that he will give Dutrow another chance, but added that the trainer is on a short leash.
"If Rick is part of this operation, if he's going to handle the best horses, we are deserving of him being completely straight up and not hiding it," Iavarone said. "That would be the crux of my irritations. I made it clear that it can't happen again."