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Dutrow says whispers won't stop him
Eight years ago, Richard Dutrow Jr. was living in the tack room of his Aqueduct barn. He was broke, had only three horses, and was trying to cope with the murder of his girlfriend and how to retain custody of the couple's young daughter.
Dutrow got through those troubled times by holding firm to the belief that he could follow in the footsteps of his father and be a successful trainer. In 1975, Dick Dutrow Sr. was the nation's leading trainer with 352 wins.
"I knew I could make it here, and I knew I could make it big," the younger Dutrow said in a recent interview at Aqueduct.
Eight years later, Dutrow has built one of the most powerful stables in the country. Coming off the best year of his career in 2004, Dutrow ranks ninth in races won and seventh in money won through the first four months of 2005.
On Friday, he will saddle the favorite for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks when he runs Sis City. Two weeks from Friday, he will send out Offlee Wild as one of the top choices in the $500,000 Pimlico Special.
But Dutrow is dogged by whispers of cheating. He has been slapped with several fines and suspensions for medication violations. On Monday, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board announced that, beginning June 1, Dutrow must serve a 60-day suspension for two medication positives. An additional 60-day suspension for a claiming violation was stayed, provided Dutrow does not commit any violations for the next year.
Dutrow, 45, maintains that the medication violations were the results of mistakes that can be made in any barn. He says the backstretch gossip about potential illegal activities doesn't affect him.
"It would only bother me if I knew a big stable was staying away from me because of the hearsay," Dutrow said. "I think there's an awful lot of jealous people out there, and just because we do a little bit better than them, they might want to run their mouths."
It would seem like people are disregarding the talk. Dutrow has 110 horses in his care. He says his success is based upon solid horsemanship, good help, and patient owners.
"I like it when people come by my barn so they can see for themselves why we win," Dutrow said. "I want our horses pushing off the right way, I want them hitting the ground the right way, I want good riders on them, and I want to be able to pick the right spot. Now, how can you not win if you do those things?
"I've got the best vet for their hind ends, I've got the best blacksmith for their feet," Dutrow added. "I ride [Edgar] Prado and Johnny [Velazquez], I've got owners that will let me wait and wait and wait. That may be our biggest weapon - time."
Tom Bush, another trainer on the New York Racing Association circuit, believes Dutrow is simply a good horseman.
"He's fundamentally sound. The guy is an excellent trainer," Bush said. "Look at the weight his horses carry, the color they have. He gives the horses rest when the start to go bad. He does an excellent job. All this other stuff is a bunch of [baloney]."
When Dutrow claims or obtains a horse, one of the first things he does is address any hind-end problems with his vet, Dr. Steve Allday.
"That's where the horses get their power," Dutrow said. "If you get them fixed up behind, they're going to be better racehorses."
Dutrow uses Alex Leaf as his blacksmith. Leaf worked for Dutrow's father and then spent five years in Dubai, working for Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum.
"He's the most talented blacksmith that you'll ever want to shoe a horse," Dutrow said.
Dutrow also credits his assistants, Juan Rodriguez and Larry Walters, as well as Rudy Rodriguez, a jockey who gets on horses for Dutrow in the morning.
"I've got extremely good people in all spots," Dutrow said. "If something ain't right, they're going to pick up the phone and let me know about it, and I can place the right people around these horses."
Dutrow worked for his father from the time he was 16 until the mid-1980's. He attempted to go out on his own, but was plagued by his own drug problems. In the late 1980's, Dutrow was ruled off NYRA tracks for five years by the State Racing and Wagering Board after testing positive for marijuana.
In the spring of 1997, Dutrow was dating a woman named Sheryl "Denise" Toyloy, who had won a Miss Teen Island competition in her native Jamaica. She had a drug problem, according to Dutrow, and his attempts to get her help failed. Toyloy was murdered in her apartment in Schenectady, N.Y., in front of the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Molly.
Because his name was not on the birth certificate, Dutrow had to fight to get custody of Molly. Molly, now 10, lives with Dutrow's mother, Vicki, in Maryland. She will be in Louisville for the Oaks.
Dutrow's professional fortunes began to change when he met Sandy Goldfarb, a commodities broker on Wall Street, in 1996. Goldfarb, who had major success in the harness industry, had followed the career of Dick Dutrow Sr. and through a mutual friend was introduced to the younger Dutrow.
"I've been around this game a long time and you know when someone is a real horseman," Goldfarb said. "I knew his dad was a real horseman, I knew he was a real horseman."
As for rumors of Dutrow's improprieties, Goldfarb gets defiant. Goldfarb said he remembers a time when there was 24-hour surveillance at Dutrow's barn.
"I took Rick into Barry Schwartz and Terry Meyocks's office and asked them to keep the surveillance 24 hours at their expense for as long as they want," Goldfarb said, referring to previous management at NYRA. "We win at every racetrack we go to - Hollywood Park, Fair Grounds, Santa Anita. How come certain guys couldn't win at certain racetracks?"
Goldfarb and Dutrow had a lot of success early on, and Goldfarb brought in several new clients. That's how Dutrow's numbers rose so quickly. In 2000, Dutrow won 64 races from 257 starters. He missed five weeks when he surrendered his license after testing positive for marijuana. Since 2002, Dutrow has won 478 races.
As well as he's doing, Dutrow wants more. He said he would like to be considered in the same vein as Todd Pletcher and Bobby Frankel, who have been atop the trainer standings the last several years.
"They are the elite of the game, they belong being the elite in the game, and I just want to be hanging out with them," Dutrow said.