The Maryland Racing Commission yesterday gave preliminary
approval to amendments that will expand the discretionary powers of the stewards, harness judges and commission in cases of drug and rules infractions.
If the measures gain final commission approval -- which could happen by early next year -- the officials would have more latitude inmeting penalties.
Another feature of the proposals is that the stewards' and judges' maximum fine will rise from $500 to $2,500.
In appeals of stewards' or judges' decisions to the commission, the same discretionary powers also may apply to the panel.
In many applications, including those involving drugs, specific penalties are not affected.
Clinton P. Pitts Jr., chief steward, said higher fines would be appropriate involving cases of performance-enhancing drugs in horses, and possibly in lieu of suspensions.
Alan Foreman, counsel to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, told the commission, meeting at Timonium, the proposed changes "are not intended as a means of getting tough." Rather, said Foreman, they were triggered by a widely publicized case involving trainer Charlie Hadry.
Hadry served a 15-day suspension after one of his horses tested positive for a trace amount of cocaine. Although evidence showed a stable employee to be the likely culprit, stringent guidelines compelled the commission to order Hadry -- whose 40-year history as a trainer was impeccable -- to serve the penalty.
"I became very concerned when the Hadry case came about that he automatically got 15 days," said John H. "Jack" Mosner Jr., commission chairman. "He is a decent man and obviously knew nothing about the situation that occurred."
In another matter, Mosner said a case involving jockey Anthony Agnello "will have to be pursued in the courts" if Agnello wishes to ride at Maryland's major tracks.
Management at Pimlico and Laurel race courses denied Agnello entrance last month, just days after Agnello was granted a license to ride by the commission.