by Claire Novak and Tom LaMarra
Jockey Rene Douglas was barred from the grounds at Calder Race Course Dec. 15, though he wasn't notified of the reason for the ban, said the jockey's agent, Danny Mellul.
Meanwhile, Calder management has enacted a "house rule" designed to strengthen existing state regulations on the use of medication.
"We have no idea what's going on right now," Mellul said Dec. 18. "They won't tell us why he has been barred, so we're getting a lawyer and trying to get to the bottom of this and find out when we can get back to riding."
Douglas was notified of the decision during the afternoon card at Calder and permitted to fulfill his mounts for the day. He won the eighth race aboard Sincere Man for trainer Harry Benson, boosting his statistics for the 60-day Tropical-at-Calder meet to 31 wins from 152 starts.
Nationally, Douglas ranks among the top 40 jockeys in earnings this year after a Nov. 4 win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) aboard Frank Calabrese's Dreaming of Anna.
"My main concern right now is making sure other tracks are aware we're not suspended," Mellul said. "Even the stewards here don't know what's going on. And in my opinion, (Calder management) should handle themselves in a more professional manner. If they have a problem, they should take care of it quietly and let the rider know what the matter is."
Calder president Ken Dunn had no comment other than to say that the track had employed its right as a private property owner to bar the jockey from the premises.
In a related matter, Calder management recently authorized an addendum to the track's house rules on veterinarians, veterinary practices, and controlled substances, with stiff penalties to await violators. The addendum was compiled and approved by a volunteer committee of track and state veterinarians who began work on the project in July at the suggestion of track management.
"We did what we thought was the smartest, taking (track vet Dr. Mary Scollay), who is very well respected, and putting together a committee to clarify and cover the traditional oversights in state regulations," Dunn said. "The violations are probably a lot stiffer than what would have happened if this project was in the hands of any other racing commission, but it's a house rule that was put together by the people who will be affected the most--our veterinarians."
Under the addendum, a $5,000 fine and potential ban up to 15 days from the premises for first-time medication violations, while a second violation would bring a $10,000 fine and a potential 30-day ban from the track. A third violation would be met with a $15,000 fine and a ban from the track for no less than year.
Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the house rule stemmed largely from suggestions from vets. He said Calder management can fine, but not suspend, a license-holder.
"They're filling in some of the holes in our (state) statutes and rules," Stirling said. "I had no problems with any of it except out-of-competition testing, but it's the only way to find it."
Out-of-competition testing is used to detect blood-doping substances, for instance, and is done randomly on days other than race day.
Stirling was asked if the Florida HBPA had input into the house rule.
"After it was pretty much a done deal?" Stirling said. "We're not real thrilled with that. The vets created this document. Did we have any input? No, but we don't have any major problems with it."
Said Dunn: "While we don't expect anyone to violate the addendum, we're trying to send a clear message that everybody should be playing by rules."