by Raymond Whelan
Texas Judge Charles Mitchell has ordered the Texas Thoroughbred Association to recertify Chauffe Au Rouge as an accredited Texas-bred racehorse. Mitchell made the decision Feb. 6 in response to a lawsuit filed against the TTA by James Donnan and Gerald Mackey, owners of the 8-year-old bay gelding by Red Attack.
The Shelby County District Court judge also ordered the TTA to reimburse Donnan and Mackey more than $250,000 for defamation, exemplary damages, and lost earnings.
Donnan still has an appeal pending in the Travis County District Court in Austin, Texas, based on a Texas Racing Commission ruling to suspend him and redistribute the $90,000 Chauffe Au Rouge would have earned during his disputed stakes and handicap victories.
"We feel we have finally received justice," Donnan said of the court ruling. "We feel very comfortable with the judgment rendered."
Dave Hooper, executive director of the TTA, said the organization would have no comment on the development until its board meets Feb. 19.
Listed by The Jockey Club as bred in Texas by M.L. Courter, Chauffe Au Rouge has won 16 races and has placed 16 times from 63 lifetime starts with total earnings of $198,900. Stakes wins for the grandson of Alydar include the 2002 Retama Park Turf Handicap and the 2003 Retama Park Turf Breeders' Cup Handicap.
Chauffe Au Rouge sparked a red-hot controversy in 2001 after he finished first in two races restricted to accredited Texas-bred runners, the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame Stakes Oct. 6 at Retama, and the $50,000 Richard King Handicap Dec. 1 at Sam Houston.
A notarized document faxed to the TTA before the Hall of Fame Stakes 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.
At the time, the TTA could register any horse born or foaled in Texas as an accredited Texas-bred if the accredited mare was bred back to an accredited Texas stallion within two breeding seasons. The TTA has since eliminated the "breed-back" rule.
One month after his Texas Hall of Fame and Richard King wins, the TTA rescinded the accreditation of Chauffe Au Rouge. The action prompted the stewards to disqualify Chauffe Au Rouge and place him ninth in both races. And, the stewards forced the horse to forfeit $90,000 in earnings after they determined Donnan had sent a "false, fraudulent or incorrect letter of intent" to register Chauffe Au Rouge as an accredited Texas-bred.
The stewards objected to the statement Donnan delivered to the TTA because it was signed "Stanley Brothers C/S" rather than with a person's signature. According to TRC executive secretary Paula Flowerday, the document was signed by the mother of the Stanley brothers who told the stewards she didn't know what her sons intended to do with High Rent. Moreover, Stanley told the stewards her sons "did not breed Thoroughbred horses."
Tom Alexander, an attorney who represents Donnan, denied his client did anything wrong. Nevertheless, the stewards and the state recommended a one-year suspension for Donnan. The TRC reduced the suspension to 60 days by the end of 2002.