Attorneys for Patrick Biancone have filed suit seeking to block a hearing by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority into whether he violated terms of an agreement reached with the regulatory agency after the prohibited substance cobra venom was found in a cooler at the trainer’s Keeneland barn.
Following an investigation into the cobra venom, stewards ordered Biancone’s license suspended for one year. Biancone contended the substance was among an array of medications placed there by his veterinarian, Dr. Rod Stewart, without his knowledge. Stewart was suspended for five years.
Prior to the hearing on Biancone’s suspension, he entered into an agreement with the KHRA. The settlement agreement provided that Biancone’s license be suspended for six months, from Nov. 1, 2007, to April 30, 2008, and that for an additional six months he would not apply for a trainer’s license.
In the latest development, the KHRA has ordered the May 19 hearing as a result of Biancone’s actions in connection with his purchase, along with Fab Oak Stables, of the training track at Hurricane Hall Farm, which is located near Lexington.
According to the suit filed by Biancone’s attorneys seeking an injunction to keep the May 19 hearing from being held, as part of his prospective purchase of the training track he was required to be at the farm on five occasions beginning Jan. 1 of this year. The suit notes the training track is at a location “not under the jurisdiction of the authority,” and that the lease and sale transaction by Biancone and Fab Oak was handled by Stoll, Keenon, Ogden -- the same law firm used by the KHRA -- and that Biancone was aware of that.
“Biancone did not believe that these activities could even remotely be considered violations of the settlement agreement, a belief that was further validated by the involvement of counsel for the authority in the purchase transaction,” the suit states.
The suit goes on to note that KHRA investigators “would secretly spy on Biancone while he was at Hurricane Hall Farm,” including videotaping the trainer’s activities. It also claims that on one occasion, investigators raided Hurricane Hall Farm and interrogated personnel, “who all confirmed that they were not working for Biancone.”
Despite that, the suit continues, “the investigators decided to make a determination that Biancone may have been training in violation of the agreement because of his activity at Hurricane Hall Farm conducted in furtherance of his intended purchase. The conclusions of the investigators were based on no evidence or wildly misinterpreted evidence…The investigators were clearly overzealously attempting to manufacture without cause, a violation of the settlement agreement when, in fact, Biancone was very careful to fully comply with the settlement agreement.” The suit says no horses at Hurricane Hall Farm were in training.
Following the investigation, Biancone was notified to appear before hearing officer James Robke April 14, though the “authority had no jurisdiction or legal authority to issue such a notice or conduct such a hearing,” the suit states.
“Nevertheless, in order to allay all concerns that a violation may have taken place, Biancone fully cooperated with the authority staff in providing information,” according to the suit.
On the morning of the April 14 hearing, Biancone and the authority entered into discussions that led to another settlement agreement that “modified the terms of the settlement agreement in certain respects and which terminated the claim that any violation of the settlement agreement had occurred up through that date,” according to the suit.
The new settlement agreement included the suspension period for three months but eliminated the six-month period in which Biancone was prohibited from applying for a trainer’s license. That agreement was considered by the KHRA during its regular monthly meeting April 21, but after a two-hour closed meeting, the regulators took no action either approving or disapproving the settlement.
On April 25, Biancone was notified of the May 19 hearing “to show cause why the penalty of suspension of your owner/trainer’s license through Oct. 31, 2008, for non-compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement and should not be imposed…”
Among other reasons, the lawsuit seeks an injunction to block the hearing because the proceedings “would cause immediate and irreparable harm to Biancone.”
A May 14 hearing has been scheduled in Franklin Circuit Court to consider the request from Biancone’s counsel. If the May 19 hearing proceeds, it would be the first time the KHRA has considered the Biancone case since five new members were appointed to the 13-member panel.