By Bill Finley
Members of the New York Gaming Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to uphold a recommendation from a hearing officer that Forte (Violence) be disqualified from his victory in the 2022 GI Hopeful S. In the Hopeful, Forte tested positive for the prohibited substance meloxicam, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
The case has moved slowly since the Sept. 2022 race. It took a eight months for the New York Gaming Commission to make the finding public and when it did the stewards disqualified Forte, fined Pletcher $1,000 and suspended him for ten days. Pletcher and owners Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola appealed the stewards' ruling, which meant the matter was sent to a hearing officer, Clark Petschek. The session with the hearing officer was held in July and Petschek issued his report on Sept. 30. Petschek upheld the original findings of the stewards, the fine, the suspension and the disqualification.
It is within the commission's right to reject the hearing officer's recommendations but, instead, it voted unanimously to uphold them.
It was noted that the owners of Hopeful runner-up, Bill and Corrine Heiligbrodt, appeared at the hearing to support the decision to disqualify Forte.
“They could have made the decision the day after the hearing,” Repole said. “I guess they must have done a lot of extensive work the last six, seven months. Instead, they took six months to state the obvious. We knew what was going to happen. We got just what we expected. They did what they thought they needed to do. We knew there was a zero percent chance this was going to get overturned.”
It's unlikely that Tuesday's ruling by the New York Gaming Commission will be the last word on the Forte matter. The Forte team can now take their case to the courts and will like file an appeal within the New York court system. Repole has vowed to spend whatever it takes to get the Hopeful decision overturned.
“We plan on taking this further and we knew we were going to get to this point,” he said. “Under HISA rules, this isn't even a violation. We are super confident that common sense will prevail and people will realize we put in this governing body in HISA to make sure people are ethical and play by the rules of the sport. Any real process that follows common sense will easily see it the same way and we will prevail.”