Owner May Take Texas Suspension to Court

by Raymond V. Whelan

Now that the Texas Racing Commission has voted to suspend his license for two months, James Donnan, the embattled owner of the racehorse Chauffe Au Rouge, plans to take his case to a Texas district court.

Chauffe Au Rouge won two races in 2001 restricted to accredited Texas Thoroughbreds: the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame Stakes Oct. 6 at Retama Park, and the $50,000 Richard King Handicap Dec. 1 at Sam Houston Race Park.

But early last year, after hearing protests and testimony from several witnesses, the board of stewards at Sam Houston declared Chauffe Au Rouge is not an accredited Texas-bred. And, they moved to disqualify the 7-year-horse by Red Attack out of High Rent from his stakes and handicap wins and ordered the redistribution of his $90,000 in earnings.

Also, the stewards decided to suspend Donnan from his owner's license for one year. However, the Texas Racing Commission in December reduced the suspension to 60 days.

According to the Texas Administrative Code, the Texas Thoroughbred Association can register any horse born or foaled in Texas as an accredited Texas-bred if the accredited mare is bred back to an accredited Texas stallion within the next two breeding seasons.

Before Donnan entered Chauffe Au Rouge at Retama and Sam Houston, he gave the TTA a notarized document showing High Rent was an accredited Texas mare. The same document said the previous owners of High Rent--the Stanley brothers from Arkansas--had planned to breed the mare to Hadif, an accredited Texas stallion, in 1997. Even though High Rent died in 1996, and Red Attack was not an accredited Texas stallion, the TTA accepted the document for accreditation purposes.

But last February, the stewards found the document from Donnan was a "false, fraudulent or incorrect affidavit" for accreditation purposes, because it did not bear a person's signature, but appeared to be signed "Stanley Brothers C/S." Plus, the stewards took testimony from the mother of the Stanley brothers indicating "they did not breed Thoroughbred horses."

Donnan claims he never intended to mislead the tracks, the stewards, or the TTA, and he plans to ask the Travis County District Court in Austin, Texas, to review the matter on appeal.

"At the time, Mr. Donnan was fairly new to the horse racing business, and there's certainly no sufficient evidence to find he did anything fraudulently or intentionally," said attorney Grover Russell, who is representing Donnan along with Tom Alexander.

No date can be set for the district hearing, Russell said, until the commission releases its written decision to suspend Donnan.