09/21/2016 2:23PM

Vitali associate banned from Gulfstream


Gulfstream Park officials have told Allan Hunter, a trainer linked to the suspended trainer Marcus Vitali, that he has been banned from entering horses at all tracks owned by Gulfstream’s parent company and must remove his horses from Gulfstream’s grounds, the track officials said on Wednesday.

The order, which was first reported by the Paulick Report, is based on accusations that Vitali had been overseeing the training of the Hunter horses at Gulfstream while unlicensed in Florida or serving a suspension in the state, according to Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of the racing division of The Stronach Group, the parent company of Gulfstream Park. Hunter has been given 10 days to remove the horses, Ritvo said.

“We believe that Vitali has been giving instructions on training the horses,” Ritvo said. “Marcus Vitali is suspended. He’s not supposed to be training.”

The Stronach Group also owns Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park in Maryland, where Vitali was based earlier this year, along with Santa Anita Park in California and several other tracks.

Early this year, Vitali was charged with seven medication violations by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Rather than accept a penalty for the violations, Vitali surrendered his Florida license and relocated his stable to Maryland, where he had a valid license. But following criticism of the maneuver, Vitali began transferring most of his horses from Maryland to Hunter’s barn at Gulfstream, leading to speculation that Vitali was overseeing the string despite being unlicensed in Florida.

Meanwhile, early this summer, Vitali re-applied for a Florida license, under an agreement with Florida regulators that the seven violations would be adjudicated before a license was issued. Last week, the division and Vitali reached an agreement that requires Vitali to serve a 120-day suspension and pay a fine of $7,000 in relation to the seven violations, which were overages for regulated medications.

In an interview on Wednesday, Vitali denied using Hunter as a proxy to train the horses.

“Absolutely, positively, never happened,” Vitali said. Nevertheless, Vitali said he plans to refrain from visiting Gulfstream Park and will quietly serve out his suspension until Oct. 29.

“We made an agreement and we’re going to deal with the consequences,” Vitali said. “We’ll respect what the higher-ups want us to do, and we’ll just wait it out.”

Horses trained by Vitali won 76 times from 404 starts in 2015, with purse earnings of $2.56 million, his highest total in his career. This year, his horses have won 28 times from 174 starts.

Hunter has won 12 times from 66 starts this year, for earnings of $206,803. Vitali has described Hunter in previous interviews as a “good horseman and a dear friend.”

Vitali said that he intends to apply for stalls after his suspension expires, most likely at Gulfstream.

“We’ll regroup, apply for stalls, go back to work,” Vitali said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In this business, anything can change tomorrow.”