By T. D. Thornton
Richard E. Dutrow, Jr., was approved for a training license by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC)'s license review committee Tuesday. The voice vote was unanimous and without drama, and Dutrow's license goes into effect immediately.
Dutrow in February had regained his license to train horses in New York after sitting out a 10-year revocation imposed by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC).
The 63-year-old GI Kentucky Derby-winning trainer with the long and controversial history of racing infractions has a 1-1-1 record from six starts at Belmont Park since returning to the sport May 6.
“I just want to get my license there. Bring some horses there. Start racing. Start winning and losing, just like everybody else,” Dutrow said prior to the vote.
Dutrow's presentation in front of the committee clocked in at just 2 1/2 minutes, and consisted of him making very brief introductory remarks prior to providing concise answers to four questions from the license review committee members.
Dutrow appeared at the Lexington, Kentucky, meeting via video from New York that bore the identifying stamp of the law firm Paul Weiss. Dutrow was seated at a conference table, presumably next to an attorney, although that person did not speak during the presentation while Dutrow calmly and politely stated his own case.
Dutrow's presentation was by far the shortest among the four license applicants who were on the afternoon's agenda, and its brevity also stood in contrast to the last time Dutrow appeared before the KHRC committee seeking licensure in July 2020. At that last hearing, his legal strategy had involved testimony given by several industry participants who had vouched for Dutrow's worthiness to be licensed.
At that hearing nearly three years ago, Dutrow hadn't been licensed by any jurisdiction, and he hadn't served the full term of his New York revocation. He chose to withdraw his 2020 application when the committee gave him the option of doing so after making it clear his application wasn't going to be approved.
It was a different outcome on May 30, 2023, when Dutrow did not have anyone else speak on his behalf, and he was not pressed on any of his past transgressions by any member of the KHRC's license review committee.
Asked by one committee member to outline the extent of his planned racing stable in Kentucky and who would be taking care of his horses there if he was not on the grounds, Dutrow responded, “Yes, sir. I plan on being in Kentucky quite often with my horses, yes.”
That answer, albeit vague, seemed to satisfy the committee members.
Asked in how many states he currently holds a training license, Dutrow said New York is the only current jurisdiction, and that his application before the KHRC is his only active application.
In response to a query about how many horses are now under his care, Dutrow said, “I have 23 horses under my care at Belmont. But there's a bunch of them on farms that I would consider under my care. There's too many to count.”
One committee member then wanted to know about the conditions that had been placed on Dutrow's New York license regarding his need to submit to human drug testing. Was there something about his personal drug use that would cause the NYSGC to do that?
“Not that I'm aware of. I'm not aware of it,” Dutrow said.
That was it for the questioning. After hearing individually from all four applicants on the agenda, the committee went into executive session to deliberate before coming back into open session to vote on each applicant.
Dutrow's video feed had been turned off after his presentation, so his reaction to gaining licensure wasn't part of the KHRC meeting's YouTube video. A staffer indicated that Dutrow would be phoned afterwards with the results of the vote, but that he couldn't be phoned prior to the vote, because if he spoke without all committee members being able to hear and see him, it would be a violation of open meeting rules. TDN was not successful in reaching Dutrow for comment after the vote in his favor was taken.
Dutrow's trainees earned more than $87 million between 1979 and 2013. They won multiple graded stakes, including three Breeders' Cup races and the 2008 Kentucky Derby with Big Brown. He often topped the trainer standings at New York tracks during the 2000s decade.
Around that same time, Dutrow's official rap sheet maintained by the Association of Racing Commissioners International began to swell with violations related to an array of equine pharmaceuticals.
Between 2000 and his attempt to win the Triple Crown in 2008 with Big Brown, Dutrow was cited for 18 drug infractions, ranging from comparably benign violations for overages of legal medications phenylbutazone and Lasix, to more serious charges of using mepivacaine, an anesthetic that can be used to make sore horses feel no pain.
In addition to $20,000 in drug fines, Dutrow racked up a $5,000 penalty for providing misleading information to authorities about a workout, and was slapped with a $25,000 fine in 2007 for having contact with his stable while he was supposed to be serving a suspension.
On Nov. 20, 2010, the Dutrow trainee Fastus Cactus tested positive for butorphanol after a winning effort at Aqueduct. Dutrow's barn was searched and investigators claimed to have found in a desk drawer three syringes filled with a muscle relaxer, xylazine.
The NYSGC's predecessor agency, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, revoked Dutrow's license on Oct. 12, 2011.
Dutrow battled that revocation for two years, both at the racing commission level and in the courts. His suspension officially commenced Jan. 17, 2013. Later that year he filed a failed federal lawsuit seeking monetary damages and a reinstatement of his licensure.
Dutrow has since paid a $50,000 NYSGC fine, his term of revocation in New York ended on Jan. 17, 2023, and he now has valid licenses from New York license and Kentucky.
Asked via email after the meeting to clarify whether the committee's vote signified full approval of Dutrow's licensure or if the entire KHRC board still had to vote on what the committee approved, KHRC executive director Jamie Eads wrote, “Yes, he is licensed.”
According to the roll call, the voting members of the committee were Eads, Paul Brooker, Greg Harbut and George Haydon.