ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – A state appeals court upheld the 10-year suspension of thoroughbred trainer Richard Dutrow, who won two legs of racing’s Triple Crown with Big Brown in 2008.
The appeals court ruled that the New York State Racing and Wagering Board “properly relied” on past disciplinary action, along with a 2-year-old doping violation at Aqueduct Racetrack, “to determine that petitioner [Dutrow] engaged in conduct that was improper and inconsistent with the public interest and best interests of racing.”
The court found that the penalty imposed – revoking Dutrow’s license for a decade and fining him $50,000 – “was not so disproportionate to his proven, recurrent misconduct as to shock one’s sense of fairness.”
The decision from the five-justice panel of the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, Third Department, was unanimous. It was written by Appellate Justice Thomas Mercure.
Dutrow was accused by a state racing steward in late 2010 of breaking Racing and Wagering Board rules by having syringes in his desk at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens and having a horse test positive for a painkiller after a race.
The charges led to a 90-day suspension, which Dutrow appealed.
The case went to an administrative hearing in June 2011, where the charges were upheld and a recommendation was made that Dutrow lose his trainer’s license permanently.
The Racing and Wagering Board, though, while agreeing with the hearing officer’s findings, modified the punishment to allow Dutrow to reapply for a license after 10 years.
Dutrow objected, calling the ruling arbitrary and capricious. He sued the Racing and Wagering Board in Schenectady County Supreme Court, which transferred the case to the Appellate Division.
The Third Department, because it is based in Albany, often hears appeals from decisions made by state agencies and boards.
Dutrow claimed in his complaint – reiterated in a separate action filed July 6, accusing the Racing and Wagering Board of dragging its feet in releasing emails he sought – that board Chairman John Sabini should have recused himself because of a “flagrant” conflict of interest.
The alleged conflict stemmed from Sabini’s also serving as chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, a trade group for regulators of horse and greyhound racing.
Dutrow claimed that Sabini was involved in an organization that “advocated and called for the revocation of Mr. Dutrow’s NYS trainer’s license” while also being “chairman and a public officer of the very board that decided [on] revocation.”
Justice Mercure, however, wrote that Dutrow’s “bare allegation” was insufficient to prove a conflict, so “it cannot be said that he was denied a fair hearing.”
Instead, Mercure found, “substantial evidence” existed that Dutrow violated Racing and Wagering Board rules in 2010 at Aqueduct, which led to the license revocation and fine.
Michael Koenig of Hinkley, Allen & Snyder in Albany argued for Dutrow.
Kathleen Arnold with the state attorney general’s office represented the Racing and Wagering Board.
The Daily Racing Form reported that Dutrow plans to appeal the decision to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. The newspaper quoted a spokesman for the Racing and Wagering Board as saying no action would be taken immediately to bar Dutrow from any tracks.
The decision was handed down on the eve of the opening of the 144th season at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, where Dutrow had three horses on the opening-day card, including one in the $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes, which was won by So Many Ways, who was trained by Dutrow’s brother, Anthony Dutrow. The brothers come from a horse-training family with roots in Maryland.
In 2008, with Richard Dutrow as trainer, Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but finished dead last in Triple Crown’s third leg, the Belmont Stakes, a showing that longtime racing writer Andy Beyer called “shocking.”