Dutrow's fate remains up in the air

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- On a mostly bright, sun-splashed, and pleasant Wednesday morning in Saratoga, some horsemen couldn't help but wonder about the storm clouds hanging over trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. some 25 miles away in a tiny boardroom at the offices of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

"So what happened to Dutrow?" one horseman asked a visitor to the backstretch, which was a horse-hive of activity considering the meet is seven weeks away.

Nothing has happened just yet and it's anybody's guess as to what will happen – and when – to Dutrow, who faces the likely suspension and possible revocation of his trainer's license by the board.

On Thursday, the board was scheduled to hold a second day of testimony in what will likely be at least a three-day hearing, which serves two purposes. First, the hearing is Dutrow's appeal of two suspensions totaling 90 days; 60 days for a positive medication test on one of his horses who won a race last Nov. 20 at Aqueduct and 30 days for the finding of loaded syringes in his Aqueduct office barn during a surprise barn search last Nov. 3.

Second, the board is holding the "show cause" hearing to determine whether it should suspend or revoke Dutrow's license because his conduct at tracks in New York and elsewhere "has been improper, obnoxious, unbecoming, and detrimental to the best interests of racing," according to a board memorandum.

Dutrow, 51, has a history of violations that include medication positives, giving misleading statements during the course of an investigation, and having contact with his barn while under suspension.

"I want to be cleared up from everything," Dutrow said after Tuesday's 4 1/2-hour hearing. "I've always had a bad reputation – always. Like I've told you guys all along, I've done wrong things in the past so that follows me around."

Those horsemen at Saratoga willing to go on the record are watching with interest, but aren't sure what the proper punishment for Dutrow should be.

"Everyone's entitled to a hearing and a fair one at that," Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. "I don't know all the details to his problems – there are so many it'd take a Philadelphia lawyer to weigh through it."

"There's a point in time where we have to do something," said trainer James Bond, who acknowledged that he has had a few positive tests in his career. "What that is I'm not smart enough to tell you. I think he's a great horsemen but how many times did he not get caught possibly, and how far did he push the envelope before he did get caught?

"I think Rick should at least be woken up a little bit," Bond added. "If the horse keeps getting out of the barn, get a stronger fence or a better lock on the door."

Mott said the idea that the board could actually revoke Dutrow's license is a bit of a wake-up a call to him and his brethren.

"I guess we all have a false sense of security, it won't happen to us," Mott said. "You would hate it where somebody who has a vendetta against you wants to take your license."

On Tuesday, Dutrow's attorney, Michael Koenig, asked the to board strike from consideration the revocation of Dutrow's license as a possible penalty that could be meted out. Koenig has until June 10 to file the appropriate paperwork with that motion and the State Racing and Wagering Board attorney, Rick Goodell, has until June 17 to file a response to Koenig's motion.

Koenig said he believes the only reason the board is seeking to revoke Dutrow's license is because Dutrow enacted his basic right of filing an appeal.

"Seeking revocation is punishment for pursuing his appeal," Koenig said. "It's an affront to due process."

Koenig said the State Racing and Wagering Board only ordered this hearing after Ed Martin, the president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, sent a letter to the board in February "to show cause as to why his license should not be revoked given what appears to be a lifetime pattern of disregard for the rules of racing." Martin, a former executive director of the NYSRWB, claims that since 1979, Dutrow has been sanctioned at least 64 times in nine different states.

Last month, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, denied Dutrow a license. With that denial on his record, Dutrow did not even apply for a license in New Jersey, where he routinely raced horses at Monmouth Park.

On Tuesday, two employees of the NYSRWB testified regarding how a horse's urine and blood samples are taken, filed, and shipped. The state was to present several more witnesses on Thursday with Dutrow likely to testify on his own behalf on Friday.