Dutrow's Legal Rights Denied, Attorney Claims

Lawyer for controversial trainer wants drug case remanded to Board of Stewards.

Controversial trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was denied traditional attempts by his lawyer to challenge two accusations by New York racing regulators and the case should be returned to a board of stewards before a final disciplinary hearing can be held, according to new legal documents in the matter.

Dutrow, who was slapped with a 90-day suspension for a positive drug sample in a winning horse in a race at Aqueduct last November as well as possession of hypodermic needles found in one of his barns, has seen his hearing before the state Racing and Wagering Board re-scheduled from next week until June 1-2. The board is also considering revoking his license.

But Dutrow’s lawyer, Gerard Romski, wants the case first remanded to the Board of Stewards, according to an affadvit he filed, “so I can present arguments and evidence in response to the investigation conducted by the stewards, to mitigate against any penalty that may be considered by the stewards. and counsel my client regarding his appeal rights.’’

The suspensions, one for 60 days and a second for 30 days, are on hold pending the full board’s decision in the case.

The 60-day suspension is for a finding of Class 3 medication Butorphanol in a post race sample of the Fastus Cactus, who finished first on Nov. 20 last year in the third race at Aqueduct. Officials say the horse is disqualified and unplaced in the finish order. The hypodermic needle finding carries a 30-day suspension.

A suspension would bar Dutrow from training or being on the grounds of any racetrack in New York, or sharing in any purse or other payments. Horses owned or trained by Dutrow would also be barred from participating in any New York races.

The new notices filed by Dutrow’s lawyer, a copy of which was obtained by The Blood-Horse under the Freedom of Information law in New York, claim that stewards at Aqueduct “wrongly ignored’’ Romski’s demands for written information about the allegations and to present a response before the suspensions were announced.

The papers state that when the syringes were found Dutrow “was not in the barn at the time of alleged violation and continues to deny any knowledge as to how the syringes may have found their way into the drawer.’’

In the second incident, the legal filing states that “it is not disputed’’ that Butorphanol was found in the blood of Fastus Cactus.

“Mr. Dutrow was not in New York at the time of the race and denies any knowledge of this alleged use of the drug. Indeed, he agreed to take a polygraph confirming that he had absolutely no knowledge of how the syringes or any Butorphanol appeared, but because of the steward’s rush to judgment and their ignorance of my representation, the polygraph was not taken at the time and no report was provided,’’ Romski states in the filing with the racing board. He also said cross-contamination was a possible cause because the horse had traveled in a trailer that day from Monmouth to Aqueduct.

Noting Dutrow’s past run-ins with the racing board, Romski said he had previously been permitted to state his client’s case to stewards. “I believe that in other instances, the penalty imposed was greatly reduced because of my appearance,’’ the lawyer stated.

Romski said the racing board “prematurely instituted’’ the suspension penalties and plans for the full disciplinary hearing before Dutrow could first make his case to stewards.

The lawyer also raised issue with criticisms leveled in the case by Edward Martin, president of the Racing Commissioners International and former executive director of the New York racing board. A day after Dutrow’s suspensions were announced in February, Martin wrote New York regulators and, citing a history of problems involving Dutrow, openly questioned whether the trainer should be permitted to remain in the industry. He noted Dutrow had been sanctioned more than 64 times involving various rules’ problems since 1979.

Two weeks later, the racing board said it would look into whether Dutrow’s license should be revoked. It called him 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.’’

Romski said RCI “unilaterally injected’’ itself into the Dutrow matter in New York by demanding that the board move against the trainer’s license.

Dutrow, who trained 2008 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Big Brown, is facing a multiple-front legal challenge. Last month, Kentucky racing officials denied Dutrow a license to operate in the state. He is appealing that order, too.

Romski was unavailable for comment at his law office in Manhattan and he did not immediately reply to an email message.

A racing board spokesman, Joseph Mahoney, declined comment on the legal filings, saying the board wants "to ensure the fairness of the hearing.''