Trainer Rick Dutrow

Trainer Rick Dutrow

Anne M. Eberhardt

KHRC Suspends Rick Dutrow 30 Days

Dutrow-trained Salute the Count tested positive May 2, 2008.

In a rare decision, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has rejected it’s stewards and hearing officer’s recommendations and suspended trainer Rick Dutrow 30 days for a Clenbuterol positive that dates back to May 2, 2008.

Following a closed session during its July 7 meeting, the commission voted 6-5 to impose the stiffer penalty on Dutrow, who had initially been suspended 15 days by the stewards. That 6-5 vote followed a 6-5 vote rejecting a hearing officer’s recommendation upholding the initial 15-day suspension.

The recommended and final suspensions each include a forfeiture of the purse earned by Salute the Count after finishing second in the $100,000 Aegon Turf Sprint (gr. IIIT) at Churchill the day before the Dutrow-trained Big Brown won the 2008 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). At the time, Salute the Count was owned by Michael Dubb and Robert Joscelyn.

The suspension begins immediately, and Dutrow has 10 days after the order is officially issued in which to file an appeal in Franklin County (Kentucky) Circuit Court. Attorney Frank Becker, who represents Dutrow and was at the meeting but did not speak with the commission, said he would confer with the trainer before deciding what step to take next.

The stewards suspended Dutrow after the horse tested positive for Clenbuterol, which is an approved medication used as a bronchial dilator, which increases lung capacity though it has steroidal properties.

As is routine, Dutrow appealed the suspension. In October, hearing officer James Robke recommended that the stewards’ suspension not be upheld due to questions about the procedures used in the test. The KHRC then postponed action on the hearing officer’s report and sent the case back to Robke. Following an April 23 hearing conducted into the matter, in which Dutrow testified, Robke recommended a 15-day suspension.

According to a release from the KHRC, at the April hearing Dutrow testified that he was not aware that a member of his training staff had given the horse the drug too close to the racing date, but took full responsibility for the actions of the staff member.  The hearing officer found that Dutrow did not dispute the overage.

KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood said she believed the commission decided on the stiffer penalty in an effort to send a message to trainers who utilize the appeal process to its fullest, even when they acknowledge that the medication positive was legitimate.

Underwood said Clenbuterol is a Class B medication violation, which permits a suspension from 0-60 days, plus loss of purse.

“They considered that he had recognized that he had made a mistake but that he had delayed it,” Underwood said of the commission’s decision. “He flagrantly worked the system.”

“There was a lot of deliberation (during the closed session),” she said. “They want to take their charge seriously. I think a lot of what is going through the commissioner’s minds is to protect the integrity of racing. It’s offensive to the betting public to see trainers who have a violation and who have admitted to the violation, to still be out there. It does happen but at some point maybe we need to draw a line in the sand and say ‘let’s look at the perception.’

“We are stewards of the sport and we want to protect the integrity and perception and we want the betting public to have confidence in the sport.”

In other action involving a positive drug test, the commission approved a 15-day suspension of trainer Greg Fox, whose horse Iam Classic Quality had tested positive for glycopyrrolate following a March 15, 2008, race at Turfway Park. Fox had initially appealed the stewards ruling but informed the commission that he would drop the appeal and begin serving the suspension.

Also during the meeting, the commission received a positive report from the University of Florida on the status of medication violations in the state.

Rick Sams, director of the Florida racing lab, reported that from March through May there were no anabolic steroid violations among the approximately 1,500 blood and urine samples sent to the lab. Sams said 119 of the tests were subjected to further scrutiny, resulting in 23 violations. He said nearly all of the violations were for excessive levels of permitted therapeutic medications.

Trainer and commissioner John Ward praised the report because he said it showed almost all trainers in Kentucky were abiding by the rules and that violations are mostly excessive amounts of allowable therapeutics.

"The transparency of these reports is, in my opinion, groundbreaking in the industry," Ward said. "Finally everyone is starting to understand there are a certain number of management problems, but on the outside we are running a clean show."