By Daniel Ross
In a hearing conducted Friday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer–barred from The Stronach Group (TSG)-owned facilities since June of 2019 due to a number of equine fatalities in his care amid the well-publicized Santa Anita welfare crisis–was not granted a prohibitory injunction to be able to enter and race horses under his name at Santa Anita for the upcoming 2021-2022 winter/spring meet.
According to Hollendorfer's attorney, Drew Couto, “the judge declined the motion saying that although it asked for a prohibitory injunction, in the court's opinion, it was really a mandatory injunction.”
In doing so, the judge, Maurice Leiter, upheld his prior tentative ruling against Hollendorfer's motion.
“Plaintiff argues he is moving for a prohibitory rather than mandatory injunction. The Court disagrees. The purpose of this injunction is to allow Plaintiff to enter races at SAP [Santa Anita Park]. This does not maintain the status quo; it would require Defendants to take affirmative steps to allow Plaintiff to enter races. Plaintiff's phrasing of the requested injunction does not transform a mandatory injunction into a prohibitory one,” the judge wrote in his tentative ruling.
The TDN reached out to TSG's attorney, Richard Specter, for comment, but did not receive a response.
TSG banned Hollendorfer–formerly one of California's most prolific trainers numerically–from its facilities after four of his horses were catastrophically injured during Santa Anita's six-month 2018-2019 winter/spring meet, when the track experienced a well-publicized spike in equine fatalities.
Towards the end of September this year, Hollendorfer's legal team issued a filing with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, dated Sept. 26, seeking a prohibitory injunction to block the owners of Santa Anita Park from “unlawfully attempting to bypass or otherwise usurp” the California Horse Racing Board's (CHRB) authority to “supervise and control” the horse race entry process.
The filing also argued that TSG's reasons for banning Hollendorfer have–through months of discovery as part of ongoing litigation–proven meritless.
According to the filing, Hollendorfer did not seek stalls at Santa Anita as he maintains a barn at Los Alamitos Racecourse, adding that Hollendorfer “will suffer further irreparable harm to his business and occupation without the injunction. Plaintiff is 75-years-old and has significant underlying medical conditions. The upcoming race meet at SAP may be Plaintiff's last chance to salvage his profession.”
In a subsequent motion for summary adjudication, attorneys for the corporate owners of Santa Anita detailed a number of points, including how the approach Hollendorfer's legal team was taking “lacks standing,” and that several key arguments in their motion for a preliminary injunction would be addressed in due course through some of Hollendorfer's ongoing legal disputes.
In his tentative ruling, judge Leiter sided with the defense's arguments, writing that Hollenderfer had indeed “failed to establish irreparable harm,” and pointed to other legal avenues of pursuit.
“Plaintiff presents detailed financial information about his income and business before he was banned and his income and business after. This reinforces that Plaintiff's harm can be remedied by monetary damages,” the judge wrote.
As such, Friday's development doesn't spell the end of Hollendorfer's legal wranglings–far from it.
Hollendorfer's ongoing legal tussle with the operators of Santa Anita dates back to September 26, 2019, when he filed his initial lawsuit, and the following month, when LA County Superior Court denied his application for a temporary restraining order.
Hollendorfer filed his initial lawsuit against the Pacific Racing Association–the corporate operators of Golden Gate Fields–on Aug. 12, 2019, in Alameda County Superior Court. That court also subsequently denied Hollendorfer's application for a temporary restraining order, and the case is similarly ongoing.
Hollendorfer is also engaged in ongoing litigation against the CHRB and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. These cases are being heard in the Superior Court of San Diego County.
Hollendorfer's stable, according to court documents, has shrunk from more than 120 horses in California to an average of just 10, with another 25 to 30 horses travelling between three to four other states.
According to Equibase, Hollendorfer has trained 32 winners and earned $1,498,536 in prize money thus far this year. In 2018, he trained 176 winners and accrued $7,191,756 in prize money.