Owner Jerry Jamgotchian

Owner Jerry Jamgotchian

Keeneland Photo

Court Strikes Down Indiana 'Claiming Jail' Regulation

Ruling is victory for owners seeking to run newly claimed horses out of state.

Ruling that an Indiana regulation surrounding claiming races discriminates against out-of-state racetracks, a U.S. District Court Judge Sept. 20 found in favor of plaintiff Jerry Jamgotchian, et al., to end the the "claiming jail" practice within the state.

The Indiana regulation set forth a limitation on where owners could race newly claimed racehorses, stating that no horse claimed in the state could race outside of Indiana for a period of 60 days without the permission of the stewards and racing secretary, or until the conclusion of the race meet from which the horse was claimed. Waivers have been granted for racing a horse in a stakes event out of state.

Jamgotchian, a California-based owner, maintained that the "claiming jail" regulation violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. In precedential cases courts have ruled that, when a state directly regulates interstate commerce, it exceeds the inherent limits of the enacting state's authority and is invalid. Judge William T. Lawrence ruled that Indiana racing officials "evince the type of economic protectionism that the … Commerce Clause is designed to prevent."

Jamgotchian claimed Found a Diamond on Aug. 3, 2016, at Indiana Grand and, eight days later, claimed Tiz Dyna at the same track. Later that month Jamgotchian contacted Indiana stewards to seek permission to run the two horses outside of Indiana in non-stakes races. His request was denied.

Jamgotchian has also fought similar state regulations on claimers in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and California.

"This is a victory for every horse owner in America," Jamgotchian said. "The court has struck down the illegal 'claming jail' rule, and all owners and trainers are now free to take and race their horses anywhere they want, without fear of license suspension, fine, or penalty. This sends a clear message to racetracks and racing commissions to follow the Commerce Clause and not impose discriminatory restrictions on commerce."

Other states have similar rules, but not identical ones, to the Indiana regulations, and it is unclear what effect the court's ruling will have on them.