By Richard Rosenblatt
Kentucky Derby (gr. I)-winning trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. has some explaining to do.
New York racing authorities deemed Dutrow ”obnoxious” and “unbecoming” and ordered him to show why he should not be suspended, lose his license, and be kicked off state tracks after years and dozens of sanctions.
The New York State Racing and Wagering Board suspended Dutrow twice last month. The suspensions totaled 90 days for hypodermic needles in his barn and for a winning horse's positive test for a banned painkiller at Aqueduct last year.
Dutrow has appealed and the board scheduled hearings for March 30-31.
On March 3, the board also questioned the conduct and character of the trainer who won the 2008 Derby and Preakness (gr. I) with Big Brown , taking the unusual step of considering revoking Dutrow's license. The notice says Dutrow is a “person whose conduct at race tracks in New York state and elsewhere has been improper, obnoxious, unbecoming, and detrimental to the best interests of racing.”
It goes on to say his “character and general fitness are such that your participation in pari-mutuel racing is inconsistent with the public interest” based on recent suspensions and “your history of rule violations.”
Dutrow's lawyer insisted there is no merit to the claims.
“When all the facts are in, and the witch hunt is over, we are confident that Mr. Dutrow will be totally vindicated,” lawyer Gerard Romski wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
The notice comes two weeks after Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, sent a letter to the board asking it to “revisit the question” of whether Dutrow should be allowed to “participate in racing at all.”
Martin, a former executive director of the NYSRWB, said that since 1979, Dutrow has been sanctioned “at least 64 times for various rules violations in nine different states at 15 racetracks.”
The most recent accusations:
• Dutrow's horse Fastus Cactus tested positive for the drug butorphanol--a pain killer--after winning the third race at Aqueduct Nov. 20.
• Three hypodermic needles were found in Dutrow's barn at Aqueduct Nov. 3.
• Three unlabeled syringes were “loaded with the drug xyzaline” in Dutrow's desk at Aqueduct's Barn 10. The drug listed as Xylazine can be used as a muscle relaxer.
• Improper conduct based on previous accusations and “history of rules violations.”
• Dutrow has won more than a dozen training titles in New York over the past 10 years. He won the Derby and Preakness with Big Brown, but the horse was pulled up and finished last in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). He also trained 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam and currently trains Derby prospect Flashpoint, winner of the Feb. 26 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.