By Tom Precious and Claire Novak
Embattled trainer Rick Dutrow said he will not let a recent ruling by New York's highest court, which would allow regulators to take away his license to work in the state, to stand without a fight.
"I was born in this game. I'm not going to stop. There's no way in the world. They're going to have to take me out in handcuffs. I will keep going out there until they take me off,'' Dutrow said on the evening of Jan. 11 in an interview with The Blood-Horse.
In October 2011, New York regulators stripped Dutrow of his license for 10 years and fined him $50,000 for what they called a pattern of license abuses over the years in New York and elsewhere.
In the 13 months that have passed since then, as Dutrow's attorney, Michael Koenig, exhausted his client's options at the state level with an administrative hearing at the racing board and three levels of civil courts in the state, Dutrow has done what he has been doing since setting up his own public stable in 1995—training racehorses.
Dutrow was able to continue running his New York operation due to a quickly-obtained stay of the revocation that was supposed to have gone into effect Oct. 18, 2011. He said his lawyers are still trying to determine which legal venue to take his appeal; it will have to be in federal court somewhere since he has now lost twice at the state's highest court.
"We will go to court. I will not just say, 'Ok, you've got me, I'm going to leave.' I'm not going to do that,'' Dutrow said.
There has been speculation that one avenue might be to file in a federal court in Brooklyn Jan. 14.
But Koenig earlier in the day said there was "nothing to report'' about a possible appeal of the ruling earlier this week by the Court of Appeals permitting sanctions against Dutrow by the state Racing and Wagering Board to go ahead. Those penalties include losing his license to train in New York—or even appear on racetrack grounds—for 10 years, and a $50,000 fine.
While the sanctions against Dutrow involved an incident in 2010, regulators said the colorful trainer has been involved in a series of racing rules violations over the years and deserved a stronger punishment than for just the one matter.
Originally, Dutrow was hit with a 90-day suspension after officials found the painkiller butorphanol in a urine sample from Fastus Cactus, who finished last in the third race Nov. 20, 2010, at Aqueduct Racetrack. There was a subsequent discovery of hypodermic needles in a Dutrow barn.
The NYSRWB later increased the penalty to a full revocation of his license, saying Dutrow is a "person whose conduct at racetracks in New York State and elsewhere has been improper, obnoxious, unbecoming, and detrimental to the best interests of racing."
Dutrow's comments came the same day Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office is representing the state racing board, was to formally provide notice to the gency of the Court of Appeals' decision against Dutrow. That begins a five-day window for the racing board to serve Dutrow with a notice of his license revocation.
Dutrow said he assumes the racing board can't act over the weekend, so he said there is still time for an appeal. "We're just not sure what day and what court we're going to,'' he said. He added he hopes to have enough time "to find a person who will listen to me and give me a shot to keep going.
"I feel we're going to be okay. I just feel and know at the end of the day I'm going to be training,'' he said.
Ironically, Dutrow's comments also came on the same day John Sabini retired as chairman of the state racing and wagering board. Sabini had especially harsh words during the past two years about Dutrow while Dutrow's lawyers sought to toss the case, in part, because of what they said was a conflict between Sabini, who has been on the board of the Racing Commissioners International, and its president, Ed Martin.
It was Martin, a former racing regulator in New York, who urged Sabini to revoke Dutrow's license in New York after what had been the initial 90-day suspension for the 2010 incident at Aqueduct.
When asked about the training victories he has enjoyed during the past two years since his latest run-in with New York regulators began, Dutrow said it should prove his claims that he does not drug horses.
"I've said this many times and no one seems to care. The reason for the spot I'm in is people think I cheat and drug my horses to make them run faster. It's come up many, many times and people are under the impression I cheat and that's why I'm in the trouble I'm in,'' Dutrow said.
"But it's been 10 freakin' years in New York since I've had a breakdown. If I'm out there cheating, ain't my horses supposed to be snapping legs because I'm giving them something to over-extend themselves? It's so ridiculous. This is a few people's agenda, and I've still got a lot of irons in the fire,'' Dutrow said.
On Oct. 17, 2011, Judge Richard Giardino in Schenectady, N.Y. issued the stay allowed Dutrow, who won the 2008 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) with Big Brown , to continue training.
The 53-year-old horseman wrapped up 2011 with a 109-76-59 record from 395 starts for earnings of $4,074,189. For the entire year of 2012, permitted to retain his license under conditions of the stay, he sent out 520 runners to 131 victories, 99 seconds, and 73 thirds, his runners bringing in $7,232,708.
In the first nine days of 2013 he had sent out seven runners, accounting for a 2-1-2 record with earnings of $84,620.
Since October 2011, Dutrow has won 22 stakes races, eight of them graded, topped by the Aug. 25 upset by Willy Beamin in the 2012 Foxwood's King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I). He took the 2012 Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) and the Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) with C C's Pal, won the James Marvin (gr. III) with Pacific Ocean, captured the General George Handicap (gr. II) with Yawanna Twist, and won the 2012 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) and the 2011 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) with Redeemed .
Dutrow had his latest legal setback on Jan. 8 when the state Court of Appeals for the second time in several months declined to consider his appeal of the racing board's penalties against him.
Regulators have maintained the unprecedented suspension is both to punish the trainer and to send a message to the racing community.