01/11/2013 3:36PM

Mark Simon: Dutrow finally caught by past transgressions


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.

Dan McCarthy More than 1 year ago
D'Funnybone More than 1 year ago
His downfall...Getting Caught...Being "Lazy" in his barn, with his subordinates, in not covering up his "penalties". This is what happens when you P.O. a lot of people. Lesson to be learned: create as few enemies as possible.
kevin killeen More than 1 year ago
The answer is have one track on the EAST coast and one track on the WEST coast completely MED FREE-NOTHING !!! with class racing. The handle will be record setting and REAL trainers will have there day back!!!! THE REST WILL HAVE TO FOLLOW ! ! AMEN
Richard Meier More than 1 year ago
His father must be rolling over in his grave!He is a black eye for racing!Can't help but wonder about Tony!He apparently doesn't care about the racing industry or the sport!!
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
a one year old article...excellent
Michael Ferry More than 1 year ago
but it was free +++
Paul Cerv More than 1 year ago
You will read about Ricky as leading trainer in South America, Argentina, or Chile! Cartels will pay him the BIG BUCKS, most likely he will put it up his nose and O.D. The man is just stopped on "Stupid"
Holybull More than 1 year ago
Here's what I fail to understand. Why its viewed as so important to give a horse a pain killer. A pain killer can prevent a horse from catastrophic breakdowns, a pain killer can not improve a horse's ability to run. It only masks the pain and can even prevent a horse from a fracture during a race or even a work out.
Karl Deppen More than 1 year ago
That's like cutting the nerve telling you there's pain or in other words something is wrong. Any meds that masquerade an ailment certainly could and most of the time does lead to more serious consequences. It's way past time to get rid of this kind of action !
Kyle Stasierowski More than 1 year ago
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
TAFKAB More than 1 year ago
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.
serio_mserio More than 1 year ago
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.
serio_mserio More than 1 year ago
And if he did cheat by making cheap horse run beyond themselves through pain because they are drugged why hasn't he had one break down in over ten years? Food for thought
Mary Simon More than 1 year ago
Good point. Dutrow does manage to hold his horses together far better than many other big-name trainers, and that's a very good thing. However, his draconian punishment clearly stems from a cumulative, long-term disregard for racing's medication rules. We're not just talking legal stuff like bute and salix ... but a pharmacopeia of tranquilizers/sedatives, muscle relaxants, steroids, anesthetics, broncho-dilators, etc. Some outright illegal, others that just happened to have (repeatedly) been administered above the legal level for raceday. If Dutrow is such a good horseman, why the need to cut so many illicit corners? And how does racing benefit by tolerating such ongoing defiance of its rules?