06/22/2012 4:33PM

Owner succeeds in claiming horses at Calder to race in California

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A California-based horse owner has rankled the feathers of Calder Race Course in Florida by claiming two horses and shipping them to California, where they are eligible to enter races despite a rule at Calder prohibiting the practice.

The incident highlights the difficulty racetracks are increasingly facing when attempting to enforce rules that have been severely weakened by a decision three years ago by the California Horse Racing Board to stop enforcing its own version of the so-called “jail-time” rule. Jail-time rules, adopted decades ago to protect tracks’ ability to fill races, typically prevent an owner from entering a claimed horse at any track other than where it was claimed for a specific time period, sometimes until the end of a meet.

In this case, Red Chapter Racing, which is owned by Robert Bone, claimed two horses at Calder in the last six weeks and recently shipped them to California. After Calder’s stewards discovered the horses had been shipped out of state, they called the stewards at Hollywood Park to inform them that the horses should not be allowed to be entered because of Calder’s jail rule, according to Larry Hill, one of Calder’s stewards. In cases such as these, tracks typically deny the horses eligibility in a kind of reciprocity that allows the jail-time rules to stick, even if, as many experts contend, they are dubious legally.

However, Tom Ward, a steward at Hollywood, told the Calder stewards that Bone would be able to enter the horses at Hollywood, citing the decision three years ago by the CHRB to waive its own rule, Hill said.

“We had papers already made up to fax them,” Hill said. “But I guess it’s understandable.”

Mike Marten, a spokesperson for the CHRB, verified that the Calder stewards and Ward discussed the eligibility issues surrounding the Bone horses.

“Because California no longer restricts claimed horses from racing outside of California, the converse is also true,” Marten said. “Horses that enter California after being claimed at other tracks are not restricted from entering races here.”

Calder’s stewards are considering taking action that would prevent Bone from claiming at the track in the future, according to steward Don Brumfield, but, “as of right now, he hasn’t broken any rule” because the horses have not been entered to race.

“It’s hard to make a decision on someone who hasn’t broken a rule,” Brumfield said. “So right now we’re just kicking things around.”

Bone said on Friday that he was aware that California tracks would not be able to deny entry to his horses when he shipped them to the state.

“I wasn’t trying to make a statement. I really wasn’t,” Bone said. “But I guess I have anyway. That being said, I’m sure every horse owner in the country would like to know that you can operate your business in a free-market way.”

The trainers who claimed the horses for Bone sounded on Friday as if they had some regrets.

“I know him from California and he’s a good guy,” said Dennis Ward, who claimed the 3-year-old Rich Kid for Bone on May 5 for $12,500. “There is really no race to run this horse in here, where he’s eligible for those $40,000 starters out there so I don’t blame him for taking him out west if he can. But I won’t mess with him or claim any horses for him again.”

David Vivian Jr. claimed Budidinha for Bone on June 10 for $16,000.

“If I knew he was going to ship this horse out of here I wouldn’t have claimed it,” Vivian said. “I’m trying to build my business, not claim horses to ship out. He called me last minute on this one and never said anything about his intentions to take her out of here.”

The rule restricting claimed horses from starting at tracks outside of California was waived after the California Horse Racing Board was sued by an activist owner, Jerry Jamgotchian, who contended that the rule violated laws protecting interstate commerce.

Last July, Jamgotchian also challenged the legality of the jail-time rule in Kentucky after a horse he claimed at Churchill Downs was denied entry at a track in Pennsylvania. Jamgotchian claimed in the lawsuit he filed that Churchill officials contacted officials at Penn National Race Course to block the horse from being entered.

That lawsuit has yet to be resolved, according to Marc Guilfoil, the acting executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Many legal experts have said that such rules clearly violate the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, and that they are unenforceable anyway without the cooperation of tracks in other states, since a racetrack’s authority to set the rules of racing does not extend beyond its property.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch