By T. D. Thornton
Linda Rice took a legal swat at both the New York Racing Association (NYRA) and the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) with a court reply underscoring that her participation as a trainer (currently permitted because of a temporary injunction) poses no threat to anyone. This latest legal filing comes as Rice continues to try and get a three-year license revocation and $50,000 fine for “improper and corrupt conduct” overturned via the state's judicial system.
The Sept. 29 memorandum of law filed by Rice's legal team in Schenectady County Supreme Court directly addressed a friend-of-the-court brief filed by NYRA Sept. 9 that had sided with defendant NYSGC by arguing that Rice's presence as an admitted seeker and user of allegedly restricted race-entry info undermines the integrity of the sport.
“Ms. Rice is currently racing her horses in good standing at NYRA and other tracks, and she has been doing so for the entire six-year period following the end of her purported misconduct in March 2015,” the trainer's legal team wrote in the reply. “There is simply no reason why she cannot, or should not, continue to do so while this case is heard and determined. Ms. Rice is demonstrably not a threat to racing, and all concerned–the commission, NYRA, and the public–would be completely and entirely unaffected by a stay/preliminary injunction.”
NYRA had argued otherwise back on Sept. 9: “Put simply, the need to protect NYRA's patrons and the wagering public from the significant risk [Rice] poses to the fairness and integrity of Thoroughbred racing in New York State far outweighs any alleged hardships to [Rice's] business resulting from the suspension of her license,” the friend-of-the-court brief stated.
Rice's filing replied that, “Simply put, the status quo is, and has been for many years, inoffensive to the Commission, NYRA, and the public, so there is no valid reason or basis to deny Ms. Rice's application for a stay until the conclusion of these proceedings.”
Rice's filing stated that, “Like the Commission, NYRA does not dispute that, in the absence of injunctive relief barring enforcement of the Commission's Order pending the outcome of this matter, Ms. Rice will suffer irreparable harm: that is, the loss of her only source of income, the destruction of her business and reputation, and the laying-off of the 55 individuals who depend on her and her stable for employment, many of whom are supporting families.”
Rice's filing continued: “Nor does NYRA make any serious attempt to demonstrate how Ms. Rice is unlikely to succeed on the merits of her claims. Although NYRA asserts Ms. Rice cannot satisfy her burden of demonstrating likelihood of success on the merits, it does not explain why.”
On May 17, 2021, culminating an investigation that had stretched over five years, NYSGC members voted 5-0 to agree with a hearing officer that Rice's years-long pattern of seeking and obtaining pre-entry information from NYRA racing office workers was “intentional, serious and extensive [and] inconsistent with and detrimental to the best interests of horse racing.”
Rice had testified that she did nothing wrong by using inside sources to gain a competitive advantage over other trainers. When the penalty got handed down, Rice contended that it was “unduly harsh.”
The ban went into effect June 7. Two days later, Rice's legal team secured a temporary injunction from the court that has allowed her to resume training while the legal process plays out.
The NYSGC on July 2 asked the court to deny Rice's motion for a preliminary injunction “because Ms. Rice has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits or that the equities weigh in favor of preliminary injunctive relief.”
Rice's Sept. 29 filing addressed both of those points.
“As to the merits of Ms. Rice's claims, the Commission's finding that the race information at issue in this case was 'confidential' and unavailable to trainers is not supported by substantial evidence and must be vacated. The finding is premised on nothing more than self-serving, conclusory pronouncements of a supposed 'universal rule' under which the names and past performance information of horses entered in overnight races constitute 'confidential information'…
“Regarding the equities in this case, NYRA's amicus brief argues that Ms. Rice's application should be denied because the 'available evidence indicates that continuation of the status quo may itself pose a significant risk to the public.' This argument completely ignores the record proof, as well as the plain fact that there has never been any suggestion–by the Commission or NYRA–that Ms. Rice has engaged in any misconduct since March of 2015.”
Rice's filing continued: “as previously discussed in Ms. Rice's prior submissions, it is undisputed that the wagering public was totally unaffected by Ms. Rice's receipt of the racing information at issue in this case…
“Lastly, because the Commission's three-year revocation of Ms. Rice's license is so disproportionate to the purported offense, it is shocking to one's sense of fairness, constitutes an abuse of discretion on the part of the Commission as a matter of law, and must be vacated on that basis as well…
“No interested party–neither the Commission, NYRA, nor the public–will suffer any diminution in the integrity of racing, any appearance of impropriety, or any other undue hardship or burden if the preliminary injunction is issued,” Rice's filing summed up.
“The Commission simply would be compelled to maintain the status quo, which is, and has been for many years, inoffensive to the best interests of the sport and those who regulate it, participate in it, and enjoy it,” the filing stated.