05/31/2011 4:00PM

Jamgotchian to sue over Kentucky claim rule

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Jerry Jamgotchian, a California-based owner, said on Tuesday that he will file a lawsuit challenging the so-called “jail time” rule in Kentucky – restricting horses from starting at tracks other than where they were claimed – after a horse he claimed recently at Churchill Downs was denied entry at Penn National in Pennsylvania.

Jamgotchian said he will file the suit in U.S. District Court in Kentucky against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Churchill Downs, and Penn National seeking to have the jail-time rule struck down. Jamgotchian was successful in a similar lawsuit he filed two years ago in California challenging that state’s jail-time rules as a violation of the Interstate Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“My position as an owner is that my horses are my property, and under the Constitution we can race them wherever we like,” Jamgotchian said.

Lisa Underwood, the executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said on Tuesday that the commission supported the restrictive law.

“The rule is what it is, and we stand behind it,” Underwood said.

Jamgotchian sought an opinion on the rule from the racing commission after the racing office at Penn National, citing the Kentucky rule, would not allow him to enter Rochitta, a horse he claimed on May 17 at Churchill Downs, in a race on Saturday, June 4.

The Kentucky rule states that a horse cannot be entered in a race taking place at any track other than the track where the horse was claimed until the track takes entries for the last race card of its meet. Under that interpretation, Rochitta would only be allowed to start in a race at Churchill Downs until early July.

In 2009, Jamgotchian filed a lawsuit against the California Horse Racing Board challenging a rule that stated that a claimed horse could not be entered in a race outside of California until 60 days after it had been claimed. The racing board reached an out-of-court settlement with Jamgotchian that required the board to rescind the rule.