02/21/2017 5:09PM

Umarov suspension reduced to five years in settlement

Courtesy of Otabek Umarov
Trainer Otabek Umarov has reached a settlement that reduces his suspension from 10 to five years.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Trainer Otabek Umarov will have his suspension reduced from 10 years to five years under a settlement approved Tuesday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The settlement, which was approved unanimously by the commission at the end of a meeting Tuesday at the Kentucky Horse Park, will cut in half the longest suspension doled out by the commission in recent memory. Umarov was given the 10-year suspension after he refused last April to allow Kentucky regulators to pull blood from a horse he trained while stabled at Churchill Downs. The regulators had intended to test the sample under the state’s out-of-competition testing rules.

The suspension will run from May 1, 2016, to April 30, 2021. Under the settlement, if Umarov re-applies for a license after the suspension expires, he will be required to appear before the racing commission’s Licensing Review Committee.

Justin Fowles, Umarov’s attorney, had been in negotiations for several months with racing commission personnel to reach the settlement. Umarov had appealed the racing commission’s suspension and had initially received a stay of the ruling from a Kentucky circuit court. He dropped his defense of the stay late last summer.

Fowles said after the commission vote that Umarov would be “dedicated to earning the trust and the support of the horse racing community” during the five-year suspension.

Umarov, who is originally from Uzbekistan, was a little-known trainer until he claimed a horse, Looks to Spare, in April 2015 for $5,000 and quickly moved the horse up the ranks. Looks to Spare won the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes in August of that year at odds of 74-1, and the gelding then finished third three months later in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs at odds of 88-1.

Kentucky regulators sought to obtain an out-of-competition testing sample from Looks to Spare in late April of last year while the horse was stabled at Churchill. After Umarov refused to make the horse available and then had the horse shipped off the grounds, Churchill ejected the trainer and the racing commission issued a summary suspension.

Umarov had argued that he did not understand his rights when he refused to allow the horse to be sampled, citing his lack of fluency in English. Kentucky regulators sharply disputed his account, and they said that Umarov had deliberately misled racing officials when he arranged for the horse to be transported off the grounds. The stable employee who traveled with the horse also was suspended.

Under Kentucky racing rules, refusing to allow a horse to be sampled for an out-of-competition test is equivalent to the horse testing positive in the test for a prohibited substance. The recommended penalty for that violation is 10 years.

Umarov also had been charged with the illegal possession of a syringe after regulators searched his barn following his refusal to allow Looks to Spare to be sampled. The settlement states that a 60-day suspension for that violation can be served concurrently with the five-year suspension.

Umarov also was fined a total of $10,000 for the two violations.