Judge Upholds Kentucky Claiming Restrictions

Owner Jerry Jamgotchian challenged horse commission's regulation on claimed horses.

A Kentucky judge has ruled against prominent horse owner Jerry Jamgotchian's legal challenge to restrictions imposed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on horses claimed in the state.

In a Nov. 29 ruling, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd said a KHRC regulation restricting when the owner of a horse claimed at a Kentucky track can run it again is reasonable and does not discriminate against interstate commerce as Jamgotchian claimed in his suit filed last year.

The regulation states that a claimed horse cannot race at any track other than the one at which it was claimed until the track takes entries for the final race card of the meet in which the claim took place. Jamgotchian wanted to run Rochitta, who was claimed for $42,000 on May 21, 2011, at Churchill Downs, at Hollywood Casino at Penn National prior to taking of entries for the final day of the Churchill meet in early July.

Jamgotchian never ran the horse at Penn National and eventually filed suit, contending such rules are unconstitutional because they violate the Commerce Clause regarding interstate commerce. Rochitta did run at Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania upon conclusion of the Churchill meet.

"The court finds that the administrative regulation is a proper exercise of the commission's regulatory authority that does not on its face discriminate against interstate commerce, that any incidental burden on interstate commerce as a result of this regulation is slight, and that the local benefits of the regulation outweigh any burden on interstate commerce," Shepherd ruled.

"The purpose and effect of the regulation in question is not to give preference to any individual in-state private party, but to nurture and promote the market for race horses, and to ensure that the public as a whole will benefit from the stronger fields and more competitive races that will result," the ruling stated.

Shepherd further said that Jamgotchian would have had a better case if the restriction of the regulation prohibited entry of claimed horses at other tracks for a lifetime or a year, but "the relatively short duration of this restriction militates strongly in favor of upholding it as a reasonable exercise of the state's police power in the field of horse racing regulation."

Following a similar lawsuit Jamgotchian had filed over a California regulation restricting a claimed horse from running outside the state for 60 days after the conclusion of the meet from which it was claimed, the state decided not to enforce and later amended the regulation.

In response to Shepherd's ruling, Jamgotchian posted a message on The Paulick Report web site that stated:

"MORE BAD NEWS FOR HORSEOWNERS AND HORSERACING....................Here's yet another reason NOT to be an owner of thoroughbred racehorses. Where else are your ownership rights restricted in this manner? Why can't you take and race your claimed horse wherever you want? This ruling is not based on the law but on protection of Churchill Downs. We'll see how Churchill does when they don't have enough horses and owners to race at their track!!!! Their answer will be fewer race days which means fewer jobs, lower handle, reduced purses and higher fees........This ridiculous ruling will hurt the entire industry but Churchill Downs could care less about the industry. They only care about making money!!!!!!"