By Claire Novak and Tom Precious
New York's highest court has declined to hear an appeal by trainer Rick Dutrow in his attempt to halt state officials from revoking his license to work in the state.
The Court of Appeals dismissed the case of Dutrow versus the New York State Racing and Wagering Board Oct. 23, stating "no substantial constitutional question is directly involved" in his fight against the state racing regulators who revoked his license last year.
The latest decision by the state's highest court represents the most serious setback for Dutrow, 53, and his ability to keep training horses in New York. However, he continues to train and race in New York under a stay of the revocation, and may continue to do so until he has exhausted every legal possibility to appeal.
Michael Koenig, Dutrow's lawyer, said the trainer will try one more time with the Court of Appeals to challenge mid-level court's findings. He said a stay—permitting Dutrow to continue training—will remain in effect as long as the appeal is filed with the high court in the next 21 days.
Koenig said the Oct. 23 court decision applies to "substantial'' constitutional issues. But he said the new appeal will ask for permission on a whole range of factors, including whether the mid-level court followed certain statutes, whether issues in the case are "novel and significant,'' and whether there is a statement impact by the matter.
"We are, of course, disappointed,'' Koenig said. But, he added, the case is not over. "We will not seek the more traditional route of asking the Court of Appeals for permission to appeal this case. I continue to believe that Rick's due process rights were violated and that the factors we will now ask the court to consider weigh in our favor.''
"The decision speaks for itself," said New York Racing and Wagering Board spokesperson Lee Park.
Dutrow was appealing a July 19 decision by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, which unanimously upheld the revocation, saying he had "engaged in conduct that was improper and inconsistent with the public interest and the best interests of racing."
Dutrow's license was revoked last year, although regulators then said he could re-apply in 10 years, and he was fined $50,000 for what officials said was a pattern of abuse involving various rules violations.
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 on Nov. 20, 2010, at Aqueduct Racetrack
. There was a subsequent discovery of hypodermic needles in a Dutrow barn.
The racing board later increased the penalty to a full revocation of his license, saying he 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 legal team said state racing board chairman John Sabini had been improperly influenced in his decision by Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. Martin is a former executive director of the New York racing agency. But that argument was rejected by the courts, which said he was given a fair hearing into the allegations.
The mid-level appeals court during the summer said the racing board "properly relied" upon Dutrow's long history of run-ins with regulators for forming the basis of its license revocation.