04/13/2011 3:44PM

Kentucky committee denies Dutrow a racing license

Tom Keyser
Trainer Rick Dutrow said he did not know whether he would appeal the decision.

FLORENCE, Ky. – Kentucky racing regulators denied a license to the controversial trainer Richard Dutrow on Wednesday, likely causing the scratch of two horses he has entered in stakes races at Keeneland and signaling that his career has begun to be imperiled by both present and past violations of racing rules.

The Licensing Review Committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission voted unanimously to deny the license after questioning Dutrow for just more than an hour in a conference room at the law offices of Burr Travis, the committee’s chairman, in Florence, Ky. The motion approved by the committee to deny the license cited seven sections of Kentucky’s racing law, including “misrepresentations” on his license application and “conduct against the best interests of racing,” presenting a high hurdle for Dutrow should he elect to appeal the decision.

Dutrow appeared without counsel at the hearing, and prior to the committee going into executive session to discuss its options, his voice cracked when asked by Burr if he wanted to make any concluding statement in his defense.

“I wish I knew what to say, but I’m not any good at that,” Dutrow said.

Dutrow’s New York-based attorney, Gerry Romski, said Wednesday that he had not yet decided whether to appeal the decision, but he indicated that Dutrow would seek to obtain a Kentucky license in the future.

“We are obviously disappointed, believe there was a misunderstanding regarding the facts, and are confident that at the end of the day the Kentucky license will be issued,” Romski said.

Dutrow, 52, has a long history of racing violations, though most are administrative violations or overages for the commonly used therapeutic medications furosemide and phenylbutazone. However, Dutrow also is currently appealing two suspensions recently handed down in New York totaling 90 days: one for a positive finding of the powerful synthetic opioid butorphanol in one of his horses, and the other for possession of three syringes allegedly filled with the sedative xyzaline in his barn at Aqueduct. Dutrow has denied any wrongdoing in both cases.

The New York Racing and Wagering Board has scheduled hearings for May 11-12 to consider whether to revoke Dutrow’s license. The decision by the Kentucky committee to deny the license will almost certainly play a part in the considerations.

Though state racing commissions honor the decisions of other commissions under an informal policy known as reciprocity, the denial of the license does not immediately imperil Dutrow’s eligibility in other racing jurisdictions where he is licensed. Reciprocity is almost always invoked when a trainer’s license is suspended, but a denial of a license is usually only cited when a trainer’s license comes up for review.

The inability for Dutrow to start a horse in Kentucky, however, has already created concerns among some of his owners. Michael Iavarone, president of IEAH Stables – which owned Dutrow’s 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown – said Wednesday following the decision that the partnership is now considering whether to remove its 10 horses from the trainer.

“That’s all got to be discussed with our partners,” Iavarone said. “Obviously, we can’t be in a position where our horses can’t run in certain jurisdictions.”

Because of the denial, two horses trained by Dutrow were set to be scratched from stakes races at Keeneland on Thursday and Friday. Barring a legal maneuver that would award Dutrow a license prior to post time, Amen Hallelujah – solely owned by IEAH – will be scratched from Thursday’s Vinery Madison Stakes, while the second, Court Vision – owned in partnership by IEAH – will be scratched from the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile on Friday.

Characteristically, Dutrow limited his criticism of the committee’s decision to the impact it would have on the owners of the scratched horses who had arrived at Keeneland on Tuesday after being flown in from Dutrow’s New York base. Just following the unanimous vote, Dutrow immediately questioned why the commission’s director of licensing, Chris Clark, had informed him that he would be able to enter the horses on Tuesday if it was possible for the horses to be scratched because of the committee’s decision.

“You guys could have said, ‘Rick, there’s a very good chance of you not being licensed,’ then I could have entered them in another trainer’s name,” Dutrow said. “I could have turned them over. Now they have to be scratched. What did the owners do wrong?”

“It’s okay what you did to me,” Dutrow added. “But not what you did to the owners. They came here in good faith.”

Susan Speckert, the commission’s chief counsel, countered that Dutrow had been made aware that his license was up for a formal review one week prior to the hearing.

“You were contacted about having to appear before this committee, correct?” Speckert asked, eliciting a “yes” response from Dutrow. “You know that your license is under review, correct? So, if anybody has an obligation to their owners, it was you. We have tried to accommodate you. We reached out to you. We have taken every step we can to accommodate you. If you have not taken the steps you need to take to protect your owners, that is your responsibility.”

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