Dutrow Denies Race-Day Medication Violations

Embattled Thoroughbred trainer Rick Dutrow made a plea for his career June 3 when he told a New York hearing officer considering a license revocation case against him--brought on by numerous illegal substance infractions--that he has been good for the Thoroughbred industry.

Testifying as the last defense witness in a three-day hearing by a New York State Racing and Wagering Board hearing officer, Dutrow denied any knowledge of how a drug made it into the urine sample of one of his horses or how syringes were found in one of his barns.

"I wouldn't do something improper with any of my horses,'' Dutrow said, as a lawyer for the board brought up a long history of the trainer's run-ins with regulators in New York and other jurisdictions.

On the final day of the hearing, which was held in Schenectady, N.Y., the trainer used character witnesses--including Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr.--to make his case that he should not be tossed from the industry in the state where he does most of his business. Kentucky officials earlier this year already rejected his racing license, a case that is still on appeal.

Dutrow was suspended--with the penalty on hold until a hearing--for a urine sample containing Class 3 medication butorphanol (an analgesic medication) in the horse Fastus Cactus, who finished first Nov. 20, 2010, in a race at Aqueduct. A second suspension was issued after hypodermic needles were found in a Dutrow barn. The two infractions together carried a 90-day suspension.

But the racing board has expanded the potential punishment to revocation of his license for what it said is a pattern of violations over the years. It called him "a person whose conduct at racetracks in New York state and elsewhere has been improper, obnoxious, unbecoming, and detrimental to the best interests of racing."

Legal papers from Dutrow in the New York case stated that the trainer was not in the barn at the time syringes were allegedly found. They also stated that Dutrow was not in the state when Factus Cactus had a positive post-race urine sample containing butorphanol. The papers said Dutrow offered to take a polygraph exam, which was not accepted by the stewards.

Asked by his lawyer at the beginning of his testimony if he had a "checkered'' past, Dutrow said, "That would be more than fair.'' Later, he said, "I know that there (are) people out there that don't like me.''

Dutrow said he had no knowledge--despite trying to find out since the charges were brought against him--how Factus Cactus ended up with butorphanol in his system or how the syringes came to be in his office desk.

Dutrow’s lawyer, Michael Koenig,said after the hearing that the drug is permitted in a horse's system at the time of a race, but it cannot be injected into a horse within 96 hours of a race.

Rick Goodell, the racing board's lawyer in the case, repeatedly raised Dutrow's past run-ins with regulators, and Dutrow acknowledged again that he engaged in training once during a suspension period. He then was slapped with a further fine and suspension in that 2005 case.

Dutrow listened as the state's lawyer brought up past controversies, including claims that he had a workout time recorded for Wild Desert in 2007 at Monmouth Park that did not occur; the recent Kentucky case against him again noted that the horse later won the Queen's Plate in Canada racing under another name because Dutrow was under suspension at the time.

The racing board is seeking to lay out a case that Dutrow's many infractions over the years--64 sanctions since 1979 in various jurisdictions--make him no longer fit to continue working in New York.

Dutrow, who is actively training about 80 horses now, talked of his life-long involvement in racing, working "year round, nonstop,'' and of his major accomplishments, including training Big Brown, the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.

"I've never injected any horse,'' he said.

Dutrow said he gave no orders for the drug to be administered to Fastus Cactus, who he described as a difficult horse to train because of the "silly'' things he would do, like suddenly cut to the right while running.

"I don't drug the horses,'' Dutrow said bluntly at one point.

Asked by the state's lawyer if he recalled the controversy he created about his pronouncements about his regular use of (the equine anabolic steroid) Winstrol in 2008, Dutrow sounded confused several times, but then added of the whirlwind in racing quarters, "I didn't do it for that.''

Documents in the case are not yet public, the hearing officer said after the June 3 session. He gave Dutrow's lawyer a week to submit legal motions, including a bid to toss out the revocation attempt. Final papers from the two sides won't have to be in until four weeks after the hearing's transcripts are available; those transcripts typically take up to three weeks to be made public after a hearing.

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The Blood-Horse Staff

The Blood-Horse is the leading weekly publication devoted to international Thoroughbred racing and breeding. Since 1916, the staff of The Blood-Horse has served the Thoroughbred community with the highest standards of journalistic excellence to provide comprehensive and timely editorial coverage and analysis.

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