The Maryland Racing Commission yesterday found Vermont horse owner Frank Lussier guilty of hidden ownership and fraudulent activities in connection with an alleged three-race betting coup last year at Laurel Race Course.
Lussier, who was fined $5,000, initially owned three horses -- Perfect Reign, The Manager and High Passer -- who were shipped to Laurel from Rockingham Park in Salem, N.H., and raced there last November and December.
All were first-time starters. Perfect Reign (Nov. 26) and The Manager (Dec. 29), won their first races, and High Passer finished third (Dec. 31).
It's possible Lussier, who was represented by local attorney GlennBushel, could appeal the case in a civil court.
In two of the three instances, Lussier sold the horses to new owners right before the race, then re-claimed them afterward. He had sold Perfect Reign to Woodard Tuttle of Boston, and High Passer to Carlisle Wisecarver III of Laurel.
However, Tuttle and Wisecarver were found not guilty of any violations.
"The weight of the evidence was just not there to say they knowingly participated in a scheme," Carol McGowan, acting chairman of the commission, said of Tuttle and Wisecarver.
Earlier, the commission absolved trainer Jody Agnes Marsh of wrongdoing after she saddled The Manager in the Dec. 29 race. Marsh had the horse in her care for only two days before the race, and it was returned to its former trainer, Michael Downing, at Rockingham Park immediately afterward.
It was an intriguing session, sparked by the appearance of a for
mer governor of Vermont, Thomas P. Salmon, who testified on behalf of Lussier.
Elizabeth Trimble, the assistant attorney general handling the case for the state, declared that the New Englanders had "ripped off" the bettors of Maryland with "some fast 2-year-olds."
Agents of the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau, which polices the sport, instituted the probe after the horses, all initially owned by Lussier, a wealthy car dealer from Montpelier, were shipped into Maryland from Rockingham Park.
Lussier acknowledged he had cashed large bets, as much as $15,000, on The Manager, but that it was legal.
Lussier said he has 15 horses in training, but only two of them are at Rockingham with Downing. Lussier said he had retired Perfect Reign and plans to breed her. He still owns The Manager and High Passer, which won at Rockingham Park recently for a $10,000 claiming tag.