Richard Dutrow: NY Court of Appeals declines case

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Trainer Richard Dutrow's attempts to stop a 10-year suspension appear to be coming to an end.

The New York Court of Appeals, the highest appellate court in the state*, has declined to hear Rick Dutrow's appeal of his 10-year suspension by the New York State Wagering and Racing Board, according to an article at BloodHorse.com. The decision to not hear Dutrow's appeal should be game, set and match for the controversial and embattled trainer's quest to stave off his punishment

The current legal problems began for Dutrow in late 2010/early 2011 when he was suspended for 90 days as the result of positive samples from a horse at Aqueduct, and the discovery of hypodermic needles in his barn area, some of which contained the drug xyzaline. Xylazine is a drug used for "sedation, anesthesia, muscle relaxation, and analgesia". Under the racing rules of New York, the drug can be administered by any means until 96 hours before a scheduled race. The horse in question, Fastus Cactus, tested positive for butorphanol, another drug in which administration is not permitted within 96 hours of a race. Butorphanol is also used a a sedative and analgesic, and is commonly used for pain relief.

From there, a movement began in New York to hand down a severe punishment to the trainer that has be suspended for multiple violations over the last twenty years. The BloodHorse summarized the path of the NYSWRB during following the initial suspension:

The controversial trainer, known for his brash ways, was suspended—with the penalty on hold until a hearing – for a urine sample containing Class 3 medication Butiophanol in Fastus Cactus, who finished first on Nov. 20 last year in the third race at Aqueduct. A second suspension was issued after hypodermic needles were found in a Dutrow barn. The two infractions together carried a 90-day suspension. The board has expanded the potential punishment to revocation of his license for what it said is a pattern of violations over the years. (emphasis added)

Those "pattern of violations" are readily apparent to anyone that takes the time to search for "Dutrow" on the database of New York rulings. According to the database, Richard E. Dutrow, Jr. has been fined or suspended 29 times since 1988. Twenty nine. And that's just in New York.

Following the denial of Dutrow's appeal, the NYSRWB released a statement:
"Today, the New York State Court of Appeals released its decision denying Richard E. Dutrow, Jr.’s final request for leave to appeal, thus exhausting his legal options in state court. Upon service of the order on Mr. Dutrow, the penalties issued against him by the Board – a 10-year ban from racing in New York and $50,000 in fines – are expected to take effect. The court’s action confirms that cheaters who repeatedly violate the rules have no place in New York racing."

In essence, Dutrow's 10-year suspension begins today, meaning he will be eligible to train in New York again on or around January 8th, 2023.

*In most states, the highest state court is the state Supreme Court, with the district courts and a court of appeals below. In New York, the nomenclature is reversed - the Court of Appeals is the highest level with the "supreme court" the trial level.

UPDATE #1:

According to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, "[o]nce the Racing and Wagering Board confirms that Mr. Dutrow and/or his attorney has been served with the order (which should be in the next few days0, the Board will issue a suspension with the effective date."

UPDATE #2:

The Daily Racing Form has as story on the Dutrow appeal with a quote from Dutrow's attorney, Michael Koeing:

"Candidly, I'm sick to my stomach," Koenig said. "In almost 40 years of practice, I have never been as disappointed or disheartened by a decision."

Apparently, Dutrow and his counsel are weighing the possibility of appealing the suspension in federal court, but that avenue is certainly no sure thing. In order to appeal in federal court, Durtrow will need to raise an issue of federal law. Second, according to the DRF article, it is unlikely the federal court would grant a stay, meaning his move to federal court won't prevent his suspension from beginning.

While this case is probably not completely over, Dutrow has very few options left at his disposal.

UPDATE #3:

According to the Daily Racing Form, Dutrow will indeed try to appeal his case to federal court.

1/15/2013 UPDATE:

According to reports in the Daily Racing Form and BloodHorse, Dutrow is expected to file an appeal to federal court on Wednesday, Jan. 16, as well as seek an injunction on Wednesday to stay his 10-year and $50,000 fine until his case is heard.

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