Jamgotchian Sues CHRB Over Name Controversy




Thoroughbred owner Jerry Jamgotchian, who has a decades-long history as both a plaintiff and defendant in lawsuits involving horse racing entities, went after the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) in federal court on Monday, claiming that his constitutional and civil rights were violated when the stewards at Los Alamitos Race Course denied entry to one of his horses this past summer over its purportedly controversial name.

Although the Oct. 17 United States District Court (Central District, Southern Division) civil complaint puts forth a legal argument based on whether the horse Malpractice Meuser (GB) {Helmet (AUS)}had the proper registration documentation to be allowed to race, the subtext of the case is predicated on claims that Jamgotchian's naming of the horse allegedly equates to intentional trolling or harassment of a Kentucky-based lawyer who shares that surname.

And even though that attorney was not specifically referenced in any of the court documents filed by Jamgotchian, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported as far back as May 28, 2021, that a court battle was brewing over Jamgotchian's desire to name horses that allegedly “tweak” the well-publicized legal troubles of trainer Bob Baffert.

At that time, reporter Tim Sullivan wrote that “Jamgotchian wants to call one of his colts Bad Test Bob-a jab at Baffert's recent rash of drug positives.” He also reported that Jamgotchian had paid “$1,000 to challenge the Jockey Club's refusal to sanction Malpractice Meuser, a name previously approved in the United Kingdom and inspired by one of Baffert's attorneys, Michael Meuser.”

As Jamgotchian stated in that Courier-Journal story, “As soon as we get through this, I'm going to federal district court and filing a civil rights action…And they're going to get smoked.”

Now, nearly a year and a half later, Jamgotchian has followed through on that threat of litigation, with the CHRB as the defendant. The colt's breeder, Theta Holding I, Inc., is a co-plaintiff.

The complaint alleges the CHRB violated First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, plus federal civil rights and California state constitution rights. Among the remedies Jamgotchian seeks via jury trial are damages in excess of $250,000, plus a ruling allowing Malpractice Meuser to race in California.

Via spokesperson Mike Marten, the CHRB declined the opportunity to tell its side of the story, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

When the Bad Test Bob name got rejected by The Jockey Club, Jamgotchian told the Courier-Journal that it was not a jab at Baffert, but instead referred to “one Bob Dreyfuss of Chatsworth, Calif., and his test for COVID-19.”

In Monday's court filing, Jamgotchian asserted that under free speech laws, “Even if Malpractice Meuser's approved name might refer to a living or deceased individual with a name that includes 'Meuser, 'or refers to no one at all, it is not a valid ground to prohibit the use of such name.”

Jamgotchian's complaint stated that Malpractice Meuser had the proper Jockey Club certification from Great Britain, where the colt was foaled, and subsequently got registered as a “covered horse” once the new federal Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act requirements became active in 2022.

But, the suit stated, when Jamgotchian wanted to enter Malpractice Meuser at Los Alamitos, “The sole reason for denial of the entry was the lack of a certificate of registration for Malpractice Meuser from The Jockey Club of New York, a private club which is not a governmental entity. [And] the sole reason, in turn, the New York Private Club refused to issue a certificate of registration was the name Malpractice Meuser.”

Malpractice Meuser has raced twice in his career, but has now been off for over a year. He finished third in his Mountaineer Park debut on June 30, 2021, then fifth at Indiana Grand on Oct. 14, 2021, for trainer Eric Reed and jockey Sonny Leon.

Both times, the court filings stated, “There was no public disturbance due to the name of Malpractice Meuser when he raced.”

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