NY Gaming Commission Fines Another NYRA Employee

Aqueduct | Sarah Andrew

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For what appears to have been nothing more than a minor clerical error, the New York Gaming Commission and its head steward Braulio Baeza, Jr. has fined NYRA Racing Secretary Keith Doleshel $2,000 for “failing to conduct business in a professional manner.”

Doleshel has appealed the decision and has the backing of NYRA management.

Under Baeza, the Gaming Commission has been quick to fine NYRA employees for what can be argued are nothing more than honest and inadvertent mistakes. Among those who have been sanctioned with fines are clocker Richard Gazer, the former Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Frank Gabriel, Jr. and Assistant Racing Secretary Rob MacLennan.

Doleshel personally accepted the entry of the first time starter Sassy Allie (Coal Front) for a maiden special weight race carded for May 2. The entry was made by trainer Robert Falcone, Jr., who provided NYRA with the information concerning the ownership of the horse. The ownership details provided by Falcone matched those in The Jockey Club registry, which is how the racing office reviews the accuracy of ownership details. However, a mistake was made somewhere along the line as the entry did not accurately reflect a recent change in ownership. Following the entry being accepted, the trainer alerted NYRA of the issue. NYRA informed all relevant parties so that the ownership details could be updated and corrected in the program. However, Baeza ordered that the horse had to be scratched.

“Mr. Doleshel took an entry from Robert Falcone and the ownership was misstated by the trainer,” said Doleshel's attorney Drew Mollica. “At the end of the day, it was a minor administrative error. Keith did everything according to Hoyle. The trainer gave him the information. He crossed referenced it.  There was no impropriety. There was no effort to conceal. It was strictly a bookkeeping error. Those sort of things happen every day and in every walk of life.

“Once it was discovered by due diligence, it could have easily been corrected. All it would have taken was a simple announcement that would have corrected the information regarding the ownership. That's the type of thing all of us have heard over the public address system a thousand times. The horse should have been allowed to run and Keith should not have been fined. Instead of solving problems, the Gaming Commission decided to create a problem where there was none.

“Not only did they scratch the horse to the detriment of everybody involved, the owner, the trainer, the association, the betting public, now they double down and fine Mr. Doleshel. This rule, not tending to business in a proper manner, is unconstitutionally vague. Everyone has a different opinion of what that means. This is insanity to its highest level.”

NYRA Vice President of Communications Pat McKenna confirmed that Doleshel has the full support of track management.

“This is but the latest example of the New York State Gaming Commission leveling significant financial penalties to individual NYRA employees for inadvertent, and sometimes unavoidable, clerical errors,” McKenna said. “Keith Doleshel is a valued and talented NYRA employee who always conducts himself professionally. As we explore separate avenues of recourse, NYRA will take every step to support an appeal should Doleshel pursue that option. These kinds of formal sanctions are a departure from standard business practices and have the effect of discouraging self-reporting and decreasing NYRA's ability to recruit and retain top talent.”

This is the second time the Gaming Commission has fined Doleshel for “failing to conduct business in a professional manner.” Doleshel was fined on Oct. 20, 2022. That ruling stemmed from an incident at Saratoga in which an unauthorized agent was allowed to claim a horse. After the claim, NYRA officials informed the Gaming Commission of the error. Doleshel agreed to a settlement with the Gaming Commission and the offense was expunged from his record.

According to Mollica, fines of more than $250 become part of a racing official's permanent record.

“Those fines have to be reported every time a licensee applies for another license,” Mollica said. “That's a scarlet letter. Any time you apply for a license or a job in the racing industry, you have to disclose these. Why would anyone want to work at NYRA under these circumstances where your entire career could be ruined over a clerical error that was nobody's fault?”

Baeza, regarded as the most powerful of the three stewards working at the NYRA tracks, has had to deal with controversies of his own. The stewards disqualified Brick Ambush (Laoban) after he crossed the wire second in the $500,000 Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Series at Aqueduct last December. Brick Ambush did not appear to do anything in the race to warrant being disqualified and many expressed an opinion that Baeza and the other two stewards disqualified the wrong horse by accident.

Asked for comment, Gaming Commission spokesman Brad Maione said, “We have no additional information to provide beyond what's in the ruling.”

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