After several years of legal action, the attempt by owner James Jackson to overturn the disqualification of his horse Valhol from victory in the 1999 Arkansas Derby has ended. On Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling stripping Valhol of the victory and the winner's $300,000 purse.
Valhol was disqualified after the commission determined that jockey Billy Patin allegedly possessed an illegal electrical device, also known as a "buzzer," in the 4 1/2-length victory. Neither Jackson nor trainer Dallas Keen were implicated in connection with the battery allegations. Nonetheless, they were affected by the stewards' decision to disqualify Valhol and the commission's action to redistribute the Derby purse.
Jackson sued, contending the racing commission lacked authority to redistribute the purse. Jackson also alleged that the punishment was unwarranted because he was not aware that Patin possessed or used t he battery and because the commission did not determine that the device altered the outcome of the race. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
, Jackson also alleged that the punishment was unconstitutional and a violation of his due-process rights and that Oaklawn had some responsibility to protect him from unauthorized actions by Patin.
"I absolutely believed with all my heart that God was on my side and that the truth would come out and that justice would be served," Jackson told the paper. "It has not been."
"I thought it was really a case of common sense," said commission investigator and attorney Byron Freeland. "If you horse is disqualified, you (owner) don't get the purse money. It wasn't the owner running in the race, it was the horse running in the race. They were trying to find a loophole in the rule."
The official winner of the 1999 Arkansas Derby is now Certain, followed by Torrid Sand, and Ecton Park.Full story, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette