The decision to scratch One Tuff Fox from the Illinois Derby (gr. II) was mandated by state racing rules and was in the best interest of the wagering public, chief state Steward Eddie Arroyo said Sunday.
One Tuff Fox was scratched less than one hour before the April 6 Derby because the colt was found unattended in his stall after the administration of Salix (formerly Lasix).
Trainer Richard Dutrow has been quoted as saying the enforcement of the rule was discretionary, that Illinois rules and regulators are questionable and that One Tuff Fox's owners might sue to recover at least the cost of bringing the colt to Sportsman's Park.
Illinois racing rules, however, state that after the administration of Lasix, "the trainer of record or his designee shall immediately return the horse to its assigned stall and shall remain with the horse and provide constant surveillance...." The rules also state that failure to do so "shall be penalized by the horse being scratched" and by a civil penalty.
Arroyo said the rule is in force to safeguard horses and to guard against potential pre-race mischief.
"The purpose of the rule is to protect the public," Arroyo said. "Too much time we spend protecting each other -- the horsemen, the track. Anything could happen to that horse. You could tamper with the horse, insert a sponge, anything. Fortunately, it hasn't happened yet in this state. But it has happened in other states."
Although the rule has been enforced several times in the past few years, the infraction involving One Tuff Fox might have escaped detection had it not been for another oversight by Dutrow, Arroyo said.
"Mr. Dutrow failed to get an Illinois (trainer's) license in a timely manner," he said. It was only when the Sportsman's racing office personnel went looking for him to correct the oversight that One Tuff Fox was found unattended, Arroyo added. He said the stewards paged Dutrow several times in an effort to notify him of the situation. "I have no idea where Mr. Dutrow was," he said.
The scratch left War Emblem as the lone speed in the Illinois Derby and he rode that advantage to an upset victory over Repent. War Emblem later was sold by Russell Reineman to The Thoroughbred Corporation and is expected to start in the Kentucky Derby for his new trainer, Bob Baffert.