Suspended trainer withdraws license application in Kentucky

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Rick Dutrow, who trained Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown and is serving a 10-year suspension by New York racing authorities, withdrew his application for a license in Kentucky on Tuesday, his latest legal defeat in an attempt to restart his career.

Dutrow and his attorney appeared on a video conference call with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s license review committee, which met remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dutrow, who turns 61 next month, has served 7 1/2 years of his suspension by the New York State Gaming Commission. The penalty expires on Jan. 17, 2023.

His Kentucky license was not renewed in 2011.

The Kentucky committee had four options: grant Dutrow a license with conditions, grant a license without conditions, reject his application or give him the opportunity to withdraw his application so that its ruling wouldn’t affect Dutrow’s options in other racing states.

The committee indicated it would not rule on Dutrow’s application and it voted unanimously to allow him to withdraw it. Racing commissions nationwide typically uphold a penalty imposed by another jurisdiction. No racing commission has issued a license to Dutrow since he began serving his ban.

Karen Murphy, Dutrow’s attorney, reluctantly accepted the chance to withdraw, saying, “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.”

Murphy asked the committee what it found unpersuasive in the presentation that led to what she called a “profoundly disturbing decision.” Committee Chairman Kenneth Jackson informed Murphy that it wasn’t procedure for the committee to justify its decisions.

Before the committee met in executive session to consider Dutrow’s application, the trainer made an emotional plea from his couch.

“The racetrack means everything to me, my family. It’s just really been a hard time with this, just watching from afar and say, ‘Man, I used to do that, why am I not doing it? I have a hard time with that,” he said.

“Since I’ve been away I’ve had a chance to reflect on things and look at myself. I know that I’m part of the problem, there’s no question about that, but I’ve done a lot of time for this. So I just need an opportunity to train horses. That’s all I want to do, that’s all I ever wanted to do.”

Dutrow’s voice broke as he concluded by saying, “I’m sorry to take up your time and cause all this stuff, but I just need to train horses. Please.”

Dutrow was banned by New York authorities in 2011 based on a hearing officer’s recommendation that his long record of medication and administrative violations made his continuing involvement in racing “inconsistent with the best interests” of the sport. He was also hit with a $50,000 fine.

Dutrow appealed the suspension to New York’s highest court, allowing him to continue to train during the process. But he eventually exhausted his legal options and began serving the suspension in January 2013.

In 2008, Dutrow trained Big Brown to Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories to set up a Triple Crown bid in the Belmont, where he finished last. Dutrow caused controversy when he admitted to regularly administering the legal steroid Winstrol to his horses, including Big Brown. At the time, he had been suspended or fined 72 times by racing authorities.

Earlier, Kentucky-based trainer Dale Romans and respected veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage testified under oath by telephone on behalf of Dutrow’s bid for a license.

“We have an opportunity to right a wrong by letting this man go back to work,” said Romans, who called Dutrow “one of the greatest horse trainers in the history of this game.”

“What this case boils down to is simply a vendetta in New York. There is no statute that says we have to honor unjust decisions by other jurisdictions,” he said.

Bramlage told the committee that his support of Dutrow was limited to what he knew about how the trainer treated his horses.

“He never takes shortcuts. He always goes with the best alternative for the horse,” Bramlage said. “He never sacrifices a horse’s welfare in order to win a purse before something becomes clinical.”

369 horses nominated to compete in Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series during the early nomination period.

Each of the horses was nominated through a $600 payment to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. The Triple Crown opens May 6 with the Derby.

The number of nominated horses increased by 57 from last year’s total of 312. They include a record 37 horses based in Japan.

Among the notable horses is Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher.

Also among the predominantly male horses nominated was a filly named Hoosier Philly.

Brad Cox led all trainers with 38 horses nominated to the series. Pletcher was second with 36 horses, followed by Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek with 13 each. Chad Brown and Hideyuki Mori had 12 each.

Others nominated include Arabian Knight, Cave Rock and Newgate, all trained by Bob Baffert. He is currently banned by Churchill Downs Inc. through this year’s Derby, although Baffert is challenging his two-year punishment in federal court.

For the Derby, horses under the care of any suspended trainer may be transferred to another trainer and become eligible to earn Derby qualifying points as long as the transfer is done by Feb. 28.

Last year, Baffert transferred two horses to another trainer and both ran in the Derby, although neither was highly placed.

Horses that were not nominated to the Triple Crown series by the early deadline of Jan. 28 can make a late payment of $6,000 through March 27 to become eligible.

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.