The California Horse Racing Board announced Dec. 22 that it has rejected the settlement offer made by the attorneys for trainer Ron Ellis, regarding his sanctions over the drug violation in Masochistic from the 2016 TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1).
Ellis' attorney, Steve Schwartz, said Dec. 20 that a settlement offer had been made to cut the trainer's suspension down to 59 days from 60, in exchange for a year of probation. A 60-day suspension requires that a trainer's stable be disbanded. Schwartz said the motivation for the proposal was to save the jobs of the 15 workers Ellis employs at his Santa Anita Park base.
The CHRB responded Friday—although Schwartz said he had not been notified—with a statement from spokesman Mike Marten.
"Mr. Ellis could have proposed a settlement to the CHRB's deputy attorney general and/or executive director at any point in time leading up to the board's consideration of the proposed decision this month. He did not do so," the statement said. "Now that the board has rendered its final decision, there is no mechanism nor precedent for administrative appeal. Should Mr. Ellis wish to further pursue the matter, he may do so through the California Superior Courts."
Schwartz took issue with the claim that he did not propose a settlement during the process, which took nearly a year to complete. Schwartz said Friday that he offered a settlement proposal to CHRB general counsel Phil Laird early in the process, but was told "because of the significance of the race, the CHRB was not interested in any negotiating."
When asked for a response to Schwartz's claim, the CHRB declined to comment further.
"The CHRB will have no further comment on this matter," said CHRB executive director Rick Baedeker. "Mr. Ellis' only appeal process is through the California Superior Courts."
Schwartz did not indicate whether he and Ellis would pursue further legal action.
Masochistic was disqualified from his second-place finish in the Sprint after a post-race test, which discovered 30 picograms per milliliter of the anabolic steroid stanozolol and 161 picograms of its metabolite 16-hydroxy stanozolol. On Oct. 28 of 2016, eight days before the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Masochistic had a test that showed 179 picograms of stanozolol and 252 picograms of 16-hydroxy stanozolol. A picogram is one trillionth of a gram.
The CHRB ultimately decided on the 60 days of suspension and $10,000 fine (the maximum based on guidelines for the type of drug infraction in the state), based on a recommendation from the board of stewards at Santa Anita.
After conducting hearings beginning in May, stewards Grant Baker, Scott Chaney, and Kim Sawyer recommended the maximum penalty (although it was less than what was sought by the state), because they found the fact that Ellis "knew the risk" from the Oct. 28 test "and decided to run his horse despite that risk," was "extremely aggravating."