Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. addressed the media at his own request June 27 outside his Aqueduct barn to set the record straight on his 15-day ban in Kentucky for an overage of the bronchial dilator, clenbuterol, in Salute the Count, the runner-up of the Aegon Turf Sprint (gr.III) at Churchill Downs May 2.
Dutrow was joined by Salute the Count’s owner, Michael Dubb, who fully stands behind his trainer. Dutrow has appealed the 15-day suspension because he said he cannot afford to take the days at this time of the year with his stable full-swing in stakes.
“In my humble estimation, there are two reasons people use medication for horses,” said Dubb, who has about two dozen horses with Dutrow. “One is because they firmly believe it helps the horses, and is good for the horses. The other reason is because they want to cheat or think it gives the horse some kind of edge. Rick Dutrow does not cheat. Rick Dutrow is all about his horses. He cares for his horses immensely.
“Apparently, what happened with Salute the Count, Rick administered a legal, and I reiterate legal, medication too close to race day. It was during Big Brown mania. No doubt an honest mistake. Rick never does anything that isn’t in the best interest of the horse. Rick is a tremendous horseman, but a poor administrator, and this is how (the clenbuterol overage) occurred.”
Dutrow called the press conference because he has become weary of the flood of phone calls he has received, particularly after the clenbuterol overage was reported earlier this week. He said he was also tired of the negative press the incident has generated. Dutrow has been on the hot seat for several weeks. First he came under fire for telling the media he injected his horses monthly, including Big Brown, with the anabolic steroid, Winstrol, which is legal in each of the three states the Triple Crown races are run. After Big Brown was pulled up in the Belmont Stakes (gr.I) and lost his bid to win the Triple Crown, Dutrow was second-guessed about everything from his reported discontinuation of the use of Winstrol with Big Brown since April, and running Big Brown with the quarter crack he sustained about a week after winning the Preakness Stakes (gr.I).
Dutrow also came under fire for not attending the congressional hearings earlier this month in Washington D.C., concerning the use of medication in racing. Dutrow, who was asked to attend the hearings, did provide written testimony.
The clenbuterol overage came on the heels of Big Brown’s co-owner, Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stable, proclaiming all of his horses will no longer race with medication, with the exception of Lasix, beginning Oct. 1.
“I’m just getting flooded with everybody calling me all the time about negative stuff,” Dutrow said. “I would really wish that would stop. I don’t know the last time I had a clenbuterol overage, six or seven years ago. I can’t imagine that it hasn’t happened before because I’m just not concentrating on those kind of things like I should be. So it’s a miracle to me it hasn’t happened before Salute the Count. I can see it happening, even though I was there all week long with (assistant trainer and exercise rider) Michelle (Nevin), and I know I had told the proper people to take him off on time. But it is just a mistake in the barn. I don’t have any issues with my help because I’m in trouble over it; it’s my responsibility, but it’s not my fault. I do know that I take my horses off clenbuterol when it is time to race, so it is just a mistake that happened. To me it is just not as big a deal as everyone is trying to make it. The last time I got a clenbuterol (positive) on some filly, nobody cared, nobody asked me. It’s not a big deal for a horse to come up with an overage for clenbuterol.”
Dutrow said clenbuterol “clears out (a horse’s) system. It helps them in a lot of different ways. I like clenbuterol. I’ve been using it for a number of top horses. And it was just a mistake that it happened. It happened at a bad time; just like everything with me.”
In the June 27 editions of the New York Post, Iavarone aired his displeasure about Dutrow’s clenbuterol overage, and having to find out through media reports.
"We had serious thoughts of taking all the horses out of the barn," Iavarone told the New York Post. "But IEAH has won over 400 races since its inception and Rick has won over 200 of them. Plus, we have only had one positive test in our career, A One Rocket with trainer Greg Martin in 2003.
"We never had a positive with Rick as our trainer."
Dutrow responded to Iavarone’s comments by saying: “Mike is kind of upset because he came out with a thing the other day that his horses as of Oct. 1 (wouldn’t run on medication). I should have said something then because I knew the clenbuterol penalty was coming. When he called me and told me he was going to make an announcement, I should have said something, but I’m just not up on things like that. I’m just not smart enough to say, “Hey, Mike, I’ve got a clenbuterol coming up. If it was one of his horses, I would have said something to him. I don’t think I even told (Dubb). He heard it from (someone else).
“I talked to Mike Iavarone (June 26), and it seemed like everything was beautiful, and I talked to him this morning, and it seems like everything is beautiful. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything to him when he was making this announcement, and that is what I think he is mostly upset about. The conversations we had yesterday and today, (Iavarone) is behind me one-million percent.”
Dutrow said Big Brown would return to galloping, for the first time since before the Belmont, this weekend, and have his shoes put back on June 30. He indicated Big Brown possibly could work next week.
“Once we gallop him, I’ll be feeling very good, if Michelle (Nevin) tells me he is great,” Dutrow said. “Once we breeze him, I will be feeling very good if (Michelle) says he is the same horse. He still has these tests to pass. I don’t see an issue with the horse. Until he gallops and breezes, I won’t know for definite (how he is).”
The target remains the Haskell (gr. I) at Monmouth Park Aug. 3, and Dutrow remarked he would like to also target the Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 23.
“In a perfect world, I would like to see him win the Haskell and Travers,” he said. “That’s a perfect world, but especially my world, it’s not perfect."
For now, Dutrow would just like for the media to give him a break.
“I think I did an unbelievable job with Big Brown,” Dutrow said of getting the relatively unseasoned Big Brown to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. “But everybody is, ‘What about the clenbuterol? What about the Winstrol?’ It got nothing to do with what we have done with Big Brown. Nobody is saying anything about the good things. They are just pounding on the Winstrol and clenbuterol: just the things that look like they might be bad. I’ve done a great job with this horse, you all, and you guys should be thinking about that, and writing about that.”