05/27/2016 4:50PM

Umarov banned 10 years by Kentucky Horse Racing Commission


LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The stewards of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission have revoked the license of the owner-trainer Otabek Umarov for 10 years after he refused to allow commission personnel to pull an out-of-competition sample from one of his horses and directed an employee to remove a stakes-winning horse from his barn.

In a ruling released late on Friday afternoon, the stewards stated that Umarov refused to allow the personnel to pull a blood sample from a stakes-winning horse he owns and trains, Looks to Spare, on April 30 at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Umarov then “further aggravated” the situation “by removing the horse from the grounds to an undisclosed location after notification that the horse had been selected for sampling,” the ruling states.

The penalty is the first believed to be handed down by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission related to rules regarding out-of-competition testing since the regulations were approved in 2010. Many drug-testing experts believe that out-of-competition testing provides the best chance to either catch drug abusers or deter would-be cheaters from using drugs that remain beneficial to horses even when they are used well before a race, such as anabolic steroids or blood-doping substances like erythropoietin.

The regulations regarding out-of-competition testing allow the commission to revoke a trainer’s or an owner’s license for five to 10 years if the licensee refuses to allow the horse to be sampled.

Umarov, a small-time trainer who has had less than 100 career starters since 2014, was ejected from Churchill Downs on May 2, three days after the incident cited in the ruling. The following day, the stewards suspended his license as they conducted an investigation into the matter. A hearing was held this week, according to chief steward Barbara Borden.

The ruling also states that a search of Umarov’s barn turned up hypodermic needles, syringes, and injectable medications. It is illegal for a trainer to possess syringes or injectable substances. The confiscated substances are being analyzed, according to Borden, and the incident remains under investigation. 

Looks to Spare, who finished third in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap last November at Churchill Downs at odds of 89-1, was claimed by Umarov for $5,000 last April at Hawthorne Racecourse in Chicago. He quickly moved up through the claiming ranks and won the West Virginia Governor’s Cup at Mountaineer Racetrack last August at odds of 74-1. The 6-year-old gelding most recently finished ninth in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap on March 19 at Oaklawn Park following a four-month break.

Prior to the incident, Looks to Spare was listed in several Churchill Downs releases as being a probable for the May 6 Alysheba Stakes at the track. 

According to two officials with knowledge of the investigation, commission personnel arrived at Umarov’s barn on the morning of April 30 and Umarov refused to allow them to approach the horse. For several hours, the personnel and the stewards urged Umarov to allow Looks to Spare to be sampled, and in that time, unknown to the commission personnel, Umarov directed one of his employees to take the horse off the grounds.

The employee, Yuliia Burdeniuk, was suspended on May 11 by the stewards “pending her appearance to answer questions regarding her actions and her complicity” in removing the horse, according to an earlier ruling. She has yet to appear for a hearing, Borden said on Thursday.

Given the severity of the appeal, Umarov is likely to appeal. Efforts to contact Umarov have been so far unsuccessful. He operates under the stable name O’zbekistan Racing. 

Umarov was suspended for two months and fined $1,000 last year in Illinois after a horse he trained tested positive for ractopamine, a feed additive that is in a class of drugs that can build muscle mass when used regularly. He was also fined $250 in Illinois last year for an overage of the regulated painkiller flunixin, and was fined $500 in California in 2014 for “disorderly conduct/fighting,” according to a database of official rulings.

The Kentucky ruling states that Umarov’s license is being revoked for 10 years for violations related to the incident with Looks to Spare. In addition, the ruling states that Umarov was assessed two separate one-year revocations “to run concurrent with each other” and the 10-year revocation, for the illegal items found in his possession and a “material misrepresentation, falsification, or omission” in his license application.