Trainers King Leatherbury and Lou Nichols, both facing 15-day suspensions for medication violations, said their dual roles as owners make their impending penalties "too severe" in separate appeals before the Maryland Racing Commission yesterday.
"The penalty is too severe for the crime," said Leatherbury, third-leading trainer in racing history, with nearly 4,800 victories.
The commission, represented by three members in the meeting at the Timonium Fairgrounds, rejected appeals from both trainers, who said they would not appeal further and would begin serving their days soon.
Wait For the Lady, trained by Leatherbury, tested positive for an excessive amount (6.7 micrograms per milliliter) of Bute, an anti-inflammatory analgesic, after winning a race at Pimlico Race Course on Sept. 15.
When a trainer is suspended, horses he owns, partly or entirely, are not allowed to race.
At issue, Leatherbury said, was whether a trainer with other vested interests in racing should be given the same penalty as others. He cited the case of a recently suspended trainer with one horse who was allowed to remain working as an exercise person. "It [his suspension] didn't affect him at all," Leatherbury said.
"The more involved you are, the more the penalty hurts."
Nichols, a trainer for 37 years, echoed Leatherbury's arguments. He told the commission he "doesn't know how to remedy" the owner/trainer issue, but that a review of rules would be appropriate.
Commissioner Jack Mosner said the two raised valid points, but cautioned that an exception for them, or any trainer in similar circumstances, would create a dangerous precedent. Two commissioners said later that a proposal from the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which represents state horsemen, possibly could initiate a commission review of the owner/trainer rule.
In another hearing, Tony Agnello was denied reinstatement as a jockey but was told he could reapply to the commission in six months. Agnello was stripped of his license in 1989 for a repeat drug violation.
* A seminar titled "Managing Thoroughbred Operations" will be held tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. in the Laurel Race Course Sports Palace. The panel discussion is open to the public, and admission is $10.