10/13/2011 4:10PM

Dutrow tries to maintain business as usual


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The dark gray clouds that hung above Aqueduct Thursday morning were an appropriate backdrop as trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., standing along the outside rail, watched a set of horses gallop by following their training sessions.

It was the morning after the New York State Racing and Wagering Board voted to revoke his trainer’s license for a minimum of 10 years and Dutrow – with training chart in hand and cell phone pressed against his ear – was attempting to go about business as usual.

“I’m trying to. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to,” Dutrow said.

Dutrow, 52, seemed relaxed and appeared in good spirits Thursday morning as he spoke on the phone with owners, agents, and the Belmont racing office. He took a set of three horses to school in the gate, instructing the gate crew that a horse named Reserved Quality has to go in the middle of the set and for the gate crew to talk to starter Roy Williamson about the horse’s gate habits.

Dutrow was all smiles a few hours later when Tiz the Argument, a 3-year-old filly he encouraged owners Mace and Samantha Siegel to purchase privately earlier this year, won a $53,000 allowance at Belmont Park at odds of 9-2.

“I was happy to be here today, happy to watch him win,” Dutrow said after the race. “Right now I feel better. We spent a lot of money. I told them to buy the horse.”

Dutrow even heard a few shouts of “Way to go, Rick” from the sparse Belmont crowd.

“I feel love at the track all the time,” Dutrow said. “I know the fans like me. Maybe some don’t, but most do.”

On the advice of his attorney, Dutrow would not comment on his matter with the State Racing and Wagering Board, which on Wednesday announced it had voted to ban Dutrow for a decade and fine him $50,000 for a history of rule violations that it says makes Dutrow’s participation in the sport “inconsistent with the best interests of racing.”

The ban does not go into effect until Tuesday, enabling Dutrow to run horses through the weekend in New York, one of the few states where he is licensed to participate. On Monday, Dutrow will appear before a state civil court judge in Schenectady, N.Y., seeking a stay of the board’s suspension that would enable him to train until an appeal is heard.

“Monday’s a big day for us,” Dutrow said.

Meanwhile, horsemen on the backstretch expressed mixed emotions over the board’s decision, realizing that some penalty was warranted while also wondering if this one might have been too severe.

“There’s no revelry in somebody else’s misery and potential end of his career,” said trainer Rick Violette, who is president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “It’s obviously heart-attack serious. You wonder at some point that real standards have to be set so that there aren’t arbitrary determinations of someone’s future. Thus far I’m not aware that those standards are set. But I’m not sure how often Rick helped himself in this path either. I’m sure at this point he’s got to look in the mirror too.”

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin agreed with the premise that Dutrow’s devil-may-care attitude may have contributed to the board’s decision.

“I personally feel like this is partially from not showing respect to the authorities,” McLaughlin said. “It’s more of a personal situation. You hope and pray one day that the authorities don’t get down on myself or someone else because I said the wrong thing. It’s just a shame.”