Maryland's horse racing stewards have disqualified the Rick Dutrow-trained King and Crusader and from the Maryland Juvenile Championship and fined Dutrow $500, upholding the protest filed by the connections of the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers in the Dec. 17 race at Laurel Park.
According to Maryland regulations, a horse may not be treated for anything within two hours of post time, and the stewards found King and Crusader had been treated within an hour of the race by licensed private veterinarian Brian Delp.
Steward John Burke said an investigation of track protocol will continue, as they try to determine where the breakdown in communication occurred that prevented the stewards from knowing the horse had arrived late and been treated in violation of state rules.
"We should have been notified [of the situation] and we weren't," Burke said. "No one can scratch or disqualify a horse except the stewards, and we certainly would have done so had we been informed of the circumstances. We don't want this to happen again."
Glib, who finished second in the race, was moved to first and the other seven horses were all moved up accordingly.
King and Crusader's owner James Riccio said he is "looking into an appeal." He has until Wednesday to inform the stewards and the Maryland Racing Commission of his decision.
Alan Foreman, the attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association who represented those who filed the protest, was not surprised by the stewards' decision.
"I don't think they had any choice," Foreman said. "Treatment of a horse less than two hours before a race isn't allowed in any jurisdiction."
Foreman said his understanding is word of the treatment began to spread shortly after the horse won. When the other trainers with horses in the race – John Robb (Glib), Robin Graham (Jack's in the Deck) and Leo Nechamkin II (Alongcamethedevil), who finished second, third and fourth, respectively – found out, it was too late to file a protest that Saturday evening. The track was closed Sunday and Monday, and the three trainers filed Tuesday morning -- "as soon as they could," Foreman said.
In the stewards' findings there was no debate over whether the horse had been treated in the illegal time frame.
Dutrow, who was not at the track on race day, said on a conference call during Saturday morning's stewards hearing that he had allowed the treatment by Delp. But, according to Foreman, Dutrow also said he had called the track, informing them the horse would be late because of a back up on I-95 due to an accident and believed he had been told by Maryland's state vet that treating the horse wouldn't be a problem.
"But the state vet can't wave that regulation," Foreman said. And there is also a discrepancy over what time Dutrow called – 9:30 a.m. or noon,. In either case, Foreman said, the outcome would be the same.
Dutrow's attorney, Mike Koenig, who is appealing a 10-year suspension of Dutrow's training license in New York, did not return calls seeking comment. Riccio, King and Crusader's owner, declined further comment until he decides whether to appeal the stewards' decision.
As for the stewards not being told of the horse's situation Saturday, Burke said the investigation is ongoing.
"We try to do our due diligence," Burke said. "Sometimes things happen. He should have been scratched and should not have been allowed to race. It was a direct violation. But word didn't get to us."
Burke said the communication breakdown could result in a fine, disciplinary action, someone being fired or nothing.
"But we don't know yet," he said. "We haven't finalized our investigation. We have to wait and see what happens."
Asked if Dutrow was the one who should be blamed for the violation, Burke said the trainer was responsible.
"His biggest infraction was that the horse showed up late," Burke said. "They're mulling an appeal. I don't know the outcome of that. He said, 'You let me run.' He's right about that. But had we been aware of all the circumstances we would absolutely not let him run."