Former Prairie Chairman Turns in Owner's License

By Dan Johnson

Former Prairie Meadows chairman Jim Rasmussen turned in his horse owner's license and his River Ridge Ranch stable was legally dissolved May 20. The move looms as a preemptive strike to avert a June hearing at which the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission would have considered action against Rasmussen for making illegal football bets with alleged bookmaker Robert Derryberry.

Rasmussen's action was essentially a paper move, as the horses will continue to race for wife, Sandra, who has her own racing license.

"I'm not surprised by what happened, but I don't know what the ramifications are," said Jack Ketterer, the commission's executive director. "They had talked about doing it when we were negotiating a settlement."

Rasmussen's action came five days after the commission rejected a settlement in which he would have surrendered his racing licenses and put 49% of his horses' earnings this year, less expenses, into a trust fund for the United Way.

Rasmussen, who had been chairman of the Prairie Meadows board of directors since 1995, also resigned from the Racing Association of Central Iowa May 9. When the commission asked that Rasmussen, who has lung cancer, be barred from Prairie Meadows for two years, the talks broke off.

Now that Rasmussen has no licenses and will attend the races just as a patron, the question is whether the commission has authority to punish him if it wants.

"We'll confer with legal counsel to see where that leaves us," said Mike Mahaffey, the commission's chairman. "Will it change things? Sure it may. I just don't know the answer to it. It does need to be researched."

Ketterer said the commission has the authority to bar an unlicensed person from a track or casino. "It's really no different than it was," Ketterer said.

Asked if she agreed with Ketterer's assessment, Maggi Moss, Rasmussen's attorney, declined comment.

Regardless of whether the commission proceeds with the hearing, Mahaffey said it isunlikely Sandra Rasmussen would face any action preventing her from racing the horses in her name.

"Sandra Rasmussen is not under any kind of investigation or any threat of penalty," Mahaffey said. "The Bible talks about the sins of the fathers not being visited upon the sons. The same could be said about the sins of husbands should not be visited on wives, too.

"She has a license herself and she has always had a license. She's going to be able to keep that. Whether there's anything we could do about that, I think it would be unlikely."

The Rasmussens have been among the leading Iowa breeders and owners since the mid-1990s. They are off to one of their best starts this year, having won the May 17 John Wayne Stakes at Prairie Meadows with Take Me Up. The Rasmussen stable has won 11 races and earned $237,778 at Prairie Meadows this year.