Otabek Umarov, the owner and trainer of Looks to Spare, the longshot third-place finisher in last year's Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs after a rapid rise through the claiming ranks, has been ejected from Churchill and suspended by state stewards, according to rulings and local officials.
Umarov, who has started 17 horses this year, most of them at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, was ejected on May 2 from Churchill, according to a ruling signed by the state stewards. The stewards then issued a suspension of Umarov the following day, though the ruling does not state the grounds for his suspension aside from the ejection. Under the suspension, Umarov has been denied access to any licensed racing or training facility in Kentucky.
Barbara Borden, Kentucky's chief steward, said on Wednesday that she could not comment on the reason the stewards levied the suspension, though she said Umarov is "facing a pending allegation of a violation" that is still under investigation. When asked if stewards automatically issue suspensions of licensees who have been ejected from racetracks, she said stewards have "discretion," but that the ejection can be treated as grounds for the ban.
"It happens fairly often," Borden said.
The suspension will prevent Umarov from starting horses in other jurisdictions while the case is being adjudicated, which is not automatically the case when an ejection is issued by a private company like Churchill Downs.
Umarov was suspended for two months and fined $1,000 last year in Illinois after a horse he trained tested positive for ractopamine, a feed additive that is in a class of drugs that can build muscle mass when used regularly. He was also fined $250 in Illinois last year for an overage of the regulated painkiller flunixin and was fined $500 in California in 2014 for "disorderly conduct/fighting," according to a database of official rulings.
It is not clear why Churchill ejected the trainer, nor is it known how many horses Umarov had at Churchill Downs. Churchill Downs officials would not comment aside from confirming the ejection while referring questions to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Umarov is little-known in the racing world aside from Looks to Spare, who finished third in the Clark at odds of 88.50-1 and won the $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Stakes last August at Mountaineer Park at odds of 74.30-1.
He claimed Looks to Spare for $5,000 in a race at Hawthorne in April. The gelding was 5 years old at the time.
Though the Clark finish was his best performance, Looks to Spare has started in four consecutive graded stakes going back to the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 30 at Belmont Park, where the horse started under trainer Gregory DiPrima because of Umarov's Illinois suspension. The gelding most recently finished ninth in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap on March 19 at Oaklawn Park following a four-month break.