07/19/2012 1:31PM

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. loses on 10-year ban but will appeal

Barbara D. Livingston
Richard Dutrow Jr. lost in court Thursday but will be allowed to train horses while he exhausts his legal options.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A mid-level New York appeals court on Thursday upheld the 10-year revocation of trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.'s license, which was handed him last fall by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

However, Dutrow, 52, plans to take his case to the New York court of appeals - the state's highest court - and will be able to continue to train horses until that appeal is heard. Dutrow had three horses entered in Friday’s opening-day card at Saratoga.

In a statement, the New York board said, "While a court-ordered stay of the board's action is in effect until Mr. Dutrow exhausts his remaining legal options, the board is pleased with the court's decision."

Michael Koenig, the attorney representing Dutrow, said, "I am as disappointed and disheartened as I've been in almost 20 years of practicing law. We believe the court applied the wrong standard of law, and we will now seek to have this matter considered further."

A five-judge panel rejected Dutrow's claim that there had been an appearance of impropriety by John Sabini, the New York board chairman who along with two other board members, dished out Dutrow's punishment.

Koenig argued that Sabini had a conflict of interest because he was also on the board of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, an organization that asked the New York board to examine Dutrow's license in Feb. 2011.

"Sabini was not bound to follow any suggestions made by the association or its president, and the record is devoid of evidence that he took any action based upon the communications or otherwise gave the impression that [he] had prejudged the facts," the New York court ruling said.

The New York appellate division third department panel, which heard the case, consisted of judges Leslie Stein, Robert Rose, Thomas Mercure, John Lahtinen, and William McCarthy.

Koenig said that "the mere presence of impropriety" should have been enough to have the case dismissed.

"The court today said we did not show Mr. Sabini's actual bias, but that is not the correct legal standard in cases like this," Koenig said.

Lee Park, a spokesman for the New York board, said the board would not direct the New York Racing Association to deny Dutrow stalls or prevent him from running - at least for the time being.

"There is no directive from the board to NYRA," Park said. "But I cannot speak on what will happen in the future."

On Oct. 12, 2011, the board announced it would revoke Dutrow's license for a 10-year period because of his history of rules violations. The board also imposed a $50,000 fine for two violations in November 2010: the presence of the painkiller butorphanol in the system of one of his horses after the horse won a race at Aqueduct and the finding of three unlabeled syringes with the painkiller xylazine in the desk drawer of Dutrow's Aqueduct barn office.

Following those penalties - and at the suggestion of the Association of Racing Commissioners International - the New York board held a three-day hearing in June of 2011 to review whether Dutrow should be allowed to participate in Thoroughbred racing given his history of repeated rules violations.

Part of Koenig's argument was that Dutrow had already served penalties for past indiscretions.

However, the court ruled that the board was proper in examining Dutrow's past rules violations to determine that Dutrow "engaged in conduct that was improper and inconsistent with the public interest and best interest of racing."

The judges also concluded that the 10-year penalty "was not so disproportionate as to his proven, recurrent misconduct as to shock one's sense of fairness."

Dutrow, the son of the highly-respected trainer Richard Dutrow Sr., won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2008 with Big Brown. He trained 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam as well as the champion sprinter Benny the Bull.