02/01/2006 12:00AM

Pletcher files lawsuit over drug penalty


Todd Pletcher, the Eclipse Award-winning trainer of 2004 and 2005, has petitioned the state Supreme Court in New York to vacate a 45-day suspension and $3,000 fine by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in a lawsuit filed on Jan. 26.

The lawsuit is related to a positive finding for the local anesthetic mepivacaine in postrace samples from the 3-year-old horse Tales of Glory after a race at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 14, 2004. Pletcher had appealed the initial penalty of a 45-day suspension and $3,000 fine, but the board rejected the appeal in December.

The lawsuit alleges that board officials illegally intervened in the case after stewards at Saratoga had initially imposed a suspended sentence in the case. The lawsuit also alleges that the board never proved that the horse was "administered" the drug because the level of the drug in the postrace sample was consistent with environmental or accidental contamination.

"The acts of [the board] were unlawful, irrational, arbitrary, and capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law," the suit states.

Dan Toomey, a spokesman for the board, said, "We have no other comment other than that the board is confident that its decision will be upheld."

Pletcher's attorney, John Behrendt, was out of the country and unavailable for comment on Wednesday, according to an assistant at the law firm where he is a partner, Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher.

Earlier in 2005, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. served a 60-day suspension for a mepivacaine positive in a horse who raced in 2003. Pletcher's lawsuit alleges that the board ignored contradictory evidence in Pletcher's case in order to be consistent with Dutrow's penalty, "where no such mitigating circumstances existed."

Pletcher's suspension has been stayed because of the appeal.