Maryland horse racing got exposed for a lack of oversight Tuesday during an appeal to have the Rick Dutrow-trained King and Crusader reinstated as the winner of the $75,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship at Laurel Park.
Dutrow and his horse's owner James Riccio lost the appeal, but Maryland horse racing may have lost more, as officials at Laurel Park were found to have not followed all of the proper procedures on the night of that December race.
"I'm stabled at Laurel Park," said John Robb, the trainer of Glib, the second-place finisher who was declared the winner of the Juvenile Championship. "I didn't know they did away with the Lasix slips that tell officials when a horse has been treated. And I can't imagine that they don't know when a horse comes through the gate.
"I'm absolutely happy I won this, but I understand the owner of King and Crusader protesting. He wanted to shed light on why his horse wasn't scratched. I think he did what he came to do."
There were more than five hours of testimony before members of the Maryland Racing Commission at Pimlico Race Course, despite there being no argument as to the facts. King and Crusader arrived late on Dec. 17 for the Juvenile and violated a two-hour treatment rule by getting Lasix an hour before the race
Riccio's argument was that Maryland racing officials should have scratched his horse before he went to post, and because they didn't enforce their rules, his victory should stand.
Commissioners Louis Ulman, David Hayden, John McDaniel, Ernest Grecco and Thomas Winebrener denied the appeal, upholding the rule that says the trainer is responsible for his horse, no matter what a third party may do, and they said they would be thoroughly reviewing "all our policies and practices."
"This case has exposed a very reckless regulatory system," said Alan Foreman, general counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and Robb's attorney. "It's not fair to the competitors, to the horses or the betting public. But that doesn't excuse the violation."
Each side accused the other of not taking responsibility — Riccio and Dutrow for not scratching their horse; and Maryland officials for not enforcing their rules.
Chief state veterinarian Dr. David Zipf said he didn't know the horse had been given Lasix within an hour of the race until, perhaps, days later. That's despite there being a rule mandating slips for each horse being treated prior to a race to be reviewed by the stewards or their representatives within an hour of each race.
"We no longer go by" the rule, said Zipf, who depends on the veterinarians to call him when a horse has an issue. "We don't have the manpower for the record keeping, and the [Maryland Jockey Club] wouldn't pay for it. [Maryland State Racing Commission] executive director Mike Hopkins told me to 'Just do the best we can.' And that's what we've been doing."
Chief steward, Philip Grove, said he operated on faith, trusting Zipf to do his job and the vets to make the calls.
Veterinarian Brian Delp, who did not make a call to Zipf after administering Lasix to King and Crusader, said, "I didn't give it a second thought. I know horses have arrived late, been treated and allowed to race without repercussions ... I wasn't in violation in my mind."
Riccio called the penalty on his horse "a joke", but said after the decision that he wasn't surprised.
"I knew it was a losing battle," he said. "But it needed to be done. They need to pay attention, let some heads roll, change their system and take a little money from somewhere and put it in administrative areas."
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association -- instead of the Maryland Jockey Club -- wouldn't pay for the record keeping for Lasix. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.
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