Rick Dutrow, who trained Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown and is serving a 10-year suspension from New York racing authorities, withdrew his application for a license in Kentucky on Tuesday. It is his latest legal defeat in an attempt to restart his career.
Dutrow and his attorney appeared on a video conference call with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's license review committee, which met remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dutrow, who turns 61 next month, has served seven-and-a-half years of his suspension by the New York State Gaming Commission. The penalty expires on Jan. 17, 2023.
His Kentucky license was not renewed in 2011.
The Kentucky committee had four options: grant Dutrow a license with conditions, grant a license without conditions, reject his application or give him the opportunity to withdraw his application so that the ruling wouldn't affect his options in other racing states.
The committee indicated that it would not rule on Dutrow's application, and it voted unanimously to allow him to withdraw it. Racing commissions nationwide typically uphold penalties imposed by other jurisdictions. No racing commission has issued a license to Dutrow since he began serving his ban.
Karen Murphy, Dutrow's attorney, reluctantly accepted the chance to withdraw, saying, "I can't tell you how disappointed I am."
Murphy asked the committee what it found unpersuasive in the presentation that led to what she called a "profoundly disturbing decision." Committee chairman Kenneth Jackson informed Murphy that it is not procedure for the committee to justify its decisions.
Before the committee met in executive session to consider Dutrow's application, the trainer made an emotional plea from his couch.
"The racetrack means everything to me, my family. It's just really been a hard time with this, just watching from afar and say, 'Man, I used to do that. Why am I not doing it?' I have a hard time with that," he said.
"Since I've been away, I've had a chance to reflect on things and look at myself. I know that I'm part of the problem -- there's no question about that -- but I've done a lot of time for this. So I just need an opportunity to train horses. That's all I want to do. That's all I ever wanted to do."
Dutrow's voice broke as he concluded, saying, "I'm sorry to take up your time and cause all this stuff, but I just need to train horses. Please."
Dutrow was banned by New York authorities in 2011 based on a hearing officer's recommendation that his long record of medication and administrative violations made his continued involvement in racing "inconsistent with the best interests" of the sport. He was hit with a $50,000 fine.
Dutrow appealed the suspension to New York's highest court, allowing him to continue to train during the process. He eventually exhausted his legal options and began serving the suspension in January 2013.
In 2008, Dutrow trained Big Brown to Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories to set up a Triple Crown bid in the Belmont, in which Big Brown finished last. Dutrow caused controversy when he admitted to regularly administering the legal steroid Winstrol to his horses, including Big Brown. At the time, he had been suspended or fined 72 times by racing authorities.
Earlier, Kentucky-based trainer Dale Romans and respected veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage testified under oath by telephone on behalf of Dutrow's bid for a license.
"We have an opportunity to right a wrong by letting this man go back to work," said Romans, who called Dutrow "one of the greatest horse trainers in the history of this game."
"What this case boils down to is simply a vendetta in New York. There is no statute that says we have to honor unjust decisions by other jurisdictions," he said.
Bramlage told the committee that his support of Dutrow was limited to what he knew about how the trainer treated his horses.
"He never takes shortcuts. He always goes with the best alternative for the horse," Bramlage said. "He never sacrifices a horse's welfare in order to win a purse before something becomes clinical."