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Mark Simon: Dutrow finally caught by past transgressions
By Mark Simon
Justice is too often delayed in racing, and sometimes never even administered. Weak, indecisive racing commissions rarely hand out severe penalties for infractions, regardless of how egregious, usually opting instead for a ceremonial slap on the wrist . . . if punishment is meted out at all.
Trainer Rick Dutrow was likely hoping for any of the above – delayed, puny, or non-existent justice – but it appears instead he will become one of the most heavily penalized licensees in the modern era if the 10-year suspension levied by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board passes its final hurdle next week and his long-awaited sentence is enforced. This would represent a most significant message, sent by racing’s regulators to those even contemplating breaking the rules.
Dutrow is one of the most successful trainers of recent decades, his most notable success coming with champion and dual 2008 classic winner Big Brown. Ironically, that same colt also provided a low point for Dutrow, who admitted he had (legally) given the horse anabolic steroids through mid-April, prior to his Kentucky Derby and Preakness triumphs and his epic flop in the Belmont Stakes.
The 2008 Eclipse Award finalist has owners who stand firmly in his corner for one simple reason: He delivers winners and a whole lot of purse money. But he also has plenty of detractors, not the least of which is a panel of state stewards who have come to see him as one of the biggest cheaters in racing. The numbers back that up.
According to the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI), since 1979 Dutrow has incurred 64 relatively minor sanctions at 15 racetracks in nine states. This is not the case of a man being caught once or twice breaking the rules, but of a defiant and chronic abuser. At long last, New York seriously challenged his license at a hearing in February of 2011, underscoring how very slowly the wheels of justice turn in our sport.
On November 3, 2010, three syringes had been found in Dutrow’s desk drawer at Aqueduct, each containing the tranquilizer xylazine (Rompun). Seventeen days later, one of his starters at that New York track tested positive for the illegal pain-killer butorphanol.
Dutrow’s infractions came at a time when racing’s sensibilities were heightened in the wake of the public’s growing disdain for "doping" in any sporting endeavor. At the same time, congressional committees were taking horse racing to task for its lax, inconsistent drug policies, and threatening federal intervention due to our failure to adequately address the problems.
Dutrow had initially received a 60-day suspension and a second 30-day suspension for those infractions of November 2010. After Dutrow appealed those sanctions in February of 2011, RCI President Ed Martin sent a letter to the New York Racing and Wagering Board, encouraging it to look at Dutrow’s overall record when determining his suitability for a license. According to RCI records, Dutrow has incurred more penalties for breaking racing’s rules than any other major active trainer.
"I formally request the Board to commence a proceeding and issue a notice to show cause as to why his license should not be revoked given what appears to be a lifetime pattern of disregard for the rules of racing," Martin wrote. "At some point, an individual who continues to violate the rules of racing forfeits through his own actions the ability to be in the game. At some point, enough is enough."
Shortly thereafter, the board ruled that Dutrow’s suspension would be 10 years, as opposed to 90 days, and the appeals process has, of course, been under way ever since.
The effect of the suspension – should his final appeal to a U.S. District Court in Brooklyn fail to stay the penalty – means that Dutrow, 53, will have been handed a virtual lifetime sentence. State commissions generally adhere to the rule of reciprocity, meaning that other racing jurisdictions will honor New York’s suspension and will not give him a license to train at their own tracks.
Dutrow could feasibly work at other jobs in racing, those that do not require a license, but if this penalty holds his training career is all but over.
Some will argue that a 10-year suspension is too much, too severe, and that Dutrow is being used as a scapegoat for racing’s past inability or unwillingness to deal sternly with rule-breakers.
Even if that is true, the effect is the same. This will serve as a firm warning to anyone thinking about skirting the rules. Wagering is at the core of this sport and the integrity of the game is at stake every time a horse competes. One infraction is too many and the sport cannot afford to have a single person tarnish its reputation.
Dear Mr. Simon, It's about damn time that Richard Dutrow Jr. is sat down for good. Also the other thing when it comes to the suspensions of trainers is if a trainer is suspened for a given length of time, those horses shouldn't be allowed to run in the assistant trainer's name like they are currently. Sincerely, Kyle Stasierowski 28-year-old loyal TVG viewer, HRTV Live Feed viewer, DRF FaceBook friend, and Twitter follower from Alden, New York
Thoroghbred racing will survive only if able to attract new fans--and their wagers. A sport that cannot enforce its own rules is not a good bet to survive.
All of Dutrows infractions are for stupid reasons, shipping without foal papers, not following procedures, etc. he only had one serious drug violation from the early 2000's. Nobody else has received this type of penalty since he has, so has no one else been caught? He annoyed them and ticked off the wrong people. Remember, from 2000-2010 if you take the top ten trainers by purse earnings how many do you think have had drug violations????????? 9 of them, only Graham Motion is drug free. Clean up racing but put all trainers on notice, but not by ending a mans life by doing so.
Scapegoat? If he had 2 infractions he would be a scapegoat, 64 infractions - he is being made a major example of - as he deserves!!! The key is-- the sport cannot afford to have a single person tarnish its reputation not to mention how despicable it is to do that to any creature! I feel that high dollar fines and suspensions should be handed out till the cows come home!! Nobody but a VET should have syringes and I also think that security camera's should be placed across the country in the barns. All medication should be given in front of a camera!!! Everyone should be made accountable!
I don't think it is severe enough, he will still be young enough to get back in when the suspension is over. Let's hope he turns to something else to keep him busy. Like lion taming. OK, can anyone tell me if there is any other reasons besides treatment or trying to pull a betting coup that someone would be stocking ROMPUM?? It isn't like a vet isn't usually nearby if you need to tranq a horse at the track.
I wonder if they will ever go after someone else. Time will tell
i am an animal lover to the nth degree. we all know the potential perils of administering medications to horses and then letting them run as fast as they do. that is only one aspect of the continual infractions that dutrow has amassed over the years. here's another one rarely discussed. Horse racing is a sport fueled by wagering. how about all the bettors that have been cheated out of winning because one of dutrow's horses was hopped up? im sure there have been hundreds of horses that dutrow doped up, but was never caught. think about how many times one of his horses won by less than a length. if that horse was on the juice, then it probably doesnt win. he has broken the rules consistently for more than 30 years. he has put animals in harm's way as well as cheating all of us out of money. let him sell used cars. i have a feeling that he would even be more successful in that line of work than he was as a trainer.
Most of these comments are by people who know nothing about gambling, because the cheaters are those that don't try every time! To manage a large group of professional athletes (the horses) and rely on employees and veterinarians is an overwhelming responsibility and a very small percentage of trasgressions with theraputic drugs is a fact. This "witch" hunt is all about jealousy and prejudice! LA
Mary Raymond: You're quite the apologist for Dutrow, a man who has shamelessly thumbed his nose at racing's rules over and over and over again. Explain to me why you think he's a good person to have in our sport? How does someone like this enhance racing's image? The public is king when it comes to racing's ultimate survival. If said public believes this is a crooked sport and that Dutrow is a patriarch of petty crooks, then it seems high time he was given the boot. Finally, finally, finally! And Robert Smith, re: your question: "Could you explain how having a med overage makes you a cheater?" In my humble opinion, 64 cumulative "minor" infractions does not establish someone as a beacon of integrity. If that's not "cheating," then I wouldn't know how to define the term. At what point is enough, enough? In 1894 leading American owner James R. Keene warned racing of its need to police itself better. He said: "A great moral wave is sweeping the country. Such as it is, it will wipe out the laws under which we race and close forever the gates of our finest tracks. Unless we take warning and reform our Turf matters, we will deserve the ruin that will come to all of us." No one listened and a few years later, anti-wagering legislation shut down major racetracks from New York to California, and damn near killed our entire Thoroughbred industry. It's been said that those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it. I believe that. I also believe that guys like Dutrow matter very much to racing's future, and not in a good way. If we continue to tolerate chronic rule breakers, to look the other way, or to mete out only the tiniest of love pats on the wrists of violators, then we'll deserve what we get.
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