The New York Racing Association has concluded its enhanced version of the Barn Area Violations Panel investigation of trainer Jeff Mullins’ actions in the Aqueduct detention barn April 4.
The panel held one hearing in the Mullins matter on May 14, and another at Belmont Park June 24.
NYRA officials did not comment on the latest proceedings, other than to indicate, any sanctions against Mullins, if any, would not be made for several weeks.
Mullins has paid a $2,500 fine and served a seven-day suspension meted out by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. The penalties were served after Mullins admitted he unknowingly breached detention barn rules by giving Bay Shore (gr. III) entrant Gato Go Win an over-the-counter equine cough product. Gato Go Win was scratched after Mullins was observed by NYRA security personnel orally administrating Air Power in the detention barn prior to the Bay Shore.
Karen Murphy, Mullins’ attorney, faxed a letter on June 22 to trainer Richard Violette Jr., the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, asking that the NYTHA send a representative to the June 24th hearing.
Dionne Johnson, the NYTHA’s office manager, attended both the May 14 and June 24 hearings.
In response to Murphy’s missive, Violette sent a letter to the attorney on June 24, clarifying several issues raised by Murphy.
Violette wrote: “I received your letter of June 22, 2009, which you admittedly faxed to an office you knew was closed because it was a dark day. You chose instead to share it with the media before I had a chance to review it and respond. It’s interesting that you elected not to use the e-mail address or the phone number that Dionne Johnson, our office manager, had provided to you on May 15th, the day after the first hearing date.
“All that being said, I must correct a couple of significant errors that were in your letter. First of all, the hearing is not costing the horsemen one dime. It is being conducted at the total expense of NYRA. Secondly, NYTHA did have a representative at the first hearing and will have one there on June 24th as well.
“NYTHA is keenly interested in the process and the fairness of these hearings. Bear in mind that we not only represent some 350 trainers, but 5,000 owners as well. Our membership is of two minds. On the one hand, there are those who totally support NYRA’s aggressive efforts to ensure an honest and level playing field, and there are those who feel that it is a very slippery slope when racetracks and their management impose additional penalties in matters where the state’s regulatory body has already taken action and meted out its own sanctions.
“With this is mind, and absent independent knowledge of all the facts surrounding the Mullins’ incident, the Board of Directors of NYTHA have decided to carefully monitor these hearings, respond if and when appropriate, and, do whatever we can to protect members from the wrongful deprivation of their rights and privileges.”
Mullins attended the first but not second hearing, which he participated in by phone from his Southern California home base. NYRA’s legal counsel denied two members of the media entrance to the June 24 hearing to “maintain the integrity of the proceeding."