By Dan Ross
As a result of a judicial decision released Friday, Jerry Hollendorfer is not permitted to return to Golden Gate to stable and race his horses. The decision, which came a week after a hearing at Alameda County Superior Court, denied Hollendorfer's request for a preliminary injunction.
“It's a bummer,” said Drew Couto, the attorney representing Hollendorfer. “The objective of the injunction was to try and minimize the damage to Jerry while the contractual processes were allowed to unfold. And unfortunately, that's not going to be allowed to happen.”
Couto added that Hollendorfer will continue to pursue legal proceedings. “This is not the end of the case,” Couto said. “We will modify and go after damages.”
Back in June, Santa Anita management told the trainer to remove his horses from The Stronach Group-owned facility, along with some 60 horses from TSG's Golden Gate Fields. The action was taken after four Hollendorfer-trained horses were catastrophically injured at Santa Anita during a six-month period, along with two at Golden Gate since November of last year. During this time, Hollendorfer has had no formal regulatory ruling against him.
The California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT) are co-plaintiffs in the case alongside Hollendorfer. According to CTT legal representative Darrell Vienna, aside from continuation of the case there are two other possible avenues open to Hollendorer's legal team.
One is to pursue arbitration between the CTT and the Pacific Racing Association (PRA), which operates Golden Gate Fields. In her decision, the judge urges the parties to “schedule that meeting at their earliest convenience so that, if the meeting does not resolve this dispute, a hearing officer can be appointed to resolve it pursuant to the parties' Race Meet Agreement.”
According to Vienna, the CTT has also filed complaints with the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), seeking their intervention in the disputes. The CHRB, said Vienna, has the “plenary power” to compel The Stronach Group to permit Hollendorfer to stable and race his horses at their premises.
“Do they have the power to do that? Yes,” said Vienna, who added that the CHRB “usually avoids stepping into these kinds of disputes.” When asked about the status of the complaints, Vienna said that the CHRB “haven't done anything. Since July 24, all they do is keep asking whether or not we want to go forward.”
According to the CHRB's executive director, Rick Baedeker, “the attorney representing CTT has asked for a hearing under CHRB Rule 2043. We have agreed but the attorney has not responded to our request for scheduling.”
As to the preliminary injunction, it was denied on a number of grounds, some of which raised questions among Hollendorfer's legal team as to whether the judge fully understood the operational mechanics of the racing industry.
The judge ruled on a legal technicality, that the preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs was “mandatory” rather than “prohibitory.”
“JH [Jerry Hollendorfer] is not presently using Golden Gate Fields to saddle, observe, train and race his horses, all of which would change the current position of the parties,” the judge wrote. “The relief Plaintiffs seek, therefore, is the imposition of a mandatory injunction.”
The judge also found that Hollendorfer had not shown sufficient evidence of irreparable harm by being denied access to Golden Gate Fields to train and race. “JH states that he will lose income if his horses are not allowed to race at Golden Gate Fields, but that at least five other racing facilities in California will permit him to train and race his horses there,” the judge wrote.
“At the hearing, JH's counsel argued that if his request for injunctive relief is denied, it will result in the permanent closure of JH's business in Northern California, because at his age it would be too difficult for JH to reopen his business even if he eventually wins the case,” the judge wrote.
“However, Plaintiffs have not offered any competent evidence in the record on this motion to support that contention. The arguments of counsel on that issue are not evidence that the Court can use to support issuance of a preliminary injunction.”
According to Vienna, “I think it's very difficult for someone who's not steeped in racing to understand that there are certain racing opportunities that can never be regained.”
Vienna added: “How do you calculate damages that you don't participate in? It would all be speculative. And how do you calculate the loss of his business? I don't think the damages are susceptible to monetary relief, and I think the damage is irreparable.”
Hollendorfer is currently permitted to stable horses at Los Alamitos. Couto said that the trainer has sold or transferred the horses he would have stabled at Golden Gate which aren't suitable for the Long Beach track, while racing is conducted there.
On Sept. 27, the racing calendar switches to Santa Anita, however. Couto said that Hollendorfer plans to pursue a similar preliminary injunction against TSG to stable and race at Santa Anita but was unable to offer specifics.
“We weren't exaggerating when we told the court that this man's business is done in less than three weeks,” Couto said. “It seems to me that's what TSG wants. They want to put this Hall of Fame trainer out of business. That is the travesty to me.”
The court filings leading up to this hearing contained a number of contentious allegations. TSG's attacks on the trainer's professional ethics, with company representatives and an official veterinarian advance a series of claims that questioned the professional approach of Hollendorfer's operation.
In response, Hollendorfer's team questioned the veracity of those assertions, as well as TSG's own managerial competency. In additional briefs filed last week, supporting declarations by respected veterinarians, trainers, jockeys and owners-including Art Sherman, Doug O'Neill, Russell Baze and owners Terry Finley and Frank Stronach-attested to the Hall of Famer's character and his professional record.