07/21/2016 11:36AM

Filly claimed by Vitali in Kentucky not permitted to run at Gulfstream


Garden Goddess was scratched as the 8-5 morning-line favorite from a Thursday race at Gulfstream Park after officials determined that the filly was ineligible to race because of a premature transfer of ownership.

The scratch drew attention once again to an ongoing situation with trainer Marcus Vitali and the status of his sizable stable. Vitali recently transferred the care of many of his horses from Maryland, where they had been racing until late June, to Florida-based trainer Allan Hunter Jr.

Vitali said Thursday by phone that he is expecting to receive word in the next few weeks from the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering in regard to his application for a trainer’s license. In early April, Vitali voluntarily surrendered his Florida license after medication overages for seven of his horses were returned within the last year.

“We’re trying to get things resolved the right way and keep everybody happy,” said Vitali.

In mid-April, Vitali moved his stable to Maryland, where he won with eight of 53 starters from April 22 to June 26, after which he stopped racing in the state and began sending horses to Hunter, whom Vitali called “a good horseman and dear friend.” Vitali also has had five starters in Pennsylvania and one in Massachusetts in his name recently.

Garden Goddess, a 3-year-old maiden filly by Blame, was claimed by Vitali as owner and trainer for $30,000 from a runner-up finish in the 11th race on June 25 at Churchill Downs. She was re-entered for a $35,000 claiming tag in the sixth race Thursday at Gulfstream with Crossed Sabres Farm LLC as owner and Hunter as trainer.

According to Barbara Borden, chief steward in Kentucky, the move violates Kentucky regulations, which stipulate that ownership cannot be sold or transferred within 30 days of a claim. Borden alerted Gulfstream racing officials, who ordered Garden Goddess scratched. The issue is unrelated to claimed horses being allowed to race in jurisdictions outside of Kentucky after a meet has closed (Churchill ended its spring meet July 2).

Vitali applied for his Florida license sometime in May. By regulation, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has 90 days to review the application.

Georgeanne Hale, director of racing for the Maryland Jockey Club, said no recent action had been taken against Vitali by the Maryland Racing Commission. “He just decided to go back to Florida,” said Hale.

Vitali, who raced for years in his native New England starting in 1989, has built a very successful stable in recent years in Florida. With the Crossed Sabres of Carolyn Vogel as a main client, his stable earned a career high of more than $2.5 million in 2015, and he won major stakes with acquisitions such as Lochte and Valid.

Into Thursday, Hunter had 41 winners from 424 starters in a training career that began in 1993.