There are sooooo many things happening in North American racing as we head towards the Kentucky Derby in a few weeks, that an occasional massive story just gets overlooked.
In New York, one is developing that could be of interest globally.
You probably don’t remember, but in 2011, New York-based racehorse trainer Rick Dutrow made headlines.
He was sensationally suspend for 10 years for a crime that others get a few months for. The severity of the penalty shocked the world at the time and Dutrow immediately sued the New York State Gaming Commission.
Right now Dutrow has done 7 years of that time and he has filed for bankruptcy in there too. But a light of hope for him switched on recently when THE most startling thing happened out of the blue.
A letter was submitted to the New York State Gaming Commission allegedly drafted by retired State Steward Steven Lewandowski dated 24 Nov, 2019. In the letter the steward stated that Dutrow was found guilty based on “planted evidence” by state investigator Joel Leveson.
Lewandowski’s letter also was sent to the Queens District Attorney’s Office and two members of the New York Racing Association Board of Directors.
On 9 January this year, the Queens DA’s Office re-opened its investigation. “A crime was committed at Aqueduct Racetrack and a man’s life and livelihood was taken from him,” said Dutrow’s attorney, Karen Murphy ESQ.
Murphy recently submitted a fourth application to the Gaming Commission. At this point, the Gaming Commission has yet to acknowledge receipt of those applications.
This is stunning. If it comes out in the wash that the governance of racing in North America can’t even be trusted….what hope do we have?
It reminds me of the ICAC investigation back in 1999 of former NSW Chief Steward of Greyhound racing, Rod Potter. That investigation found that the top lawman for the sport had taken bribes every month for a long period of time, from 3 individuals who paid him to dispose of winning greyhound urine. The urine of dogs trained by a couple of high profile trainers was tipped out and replaced on the way to the lab each Monday.
Potter did the pouring out and replacement.
The Chief Steward was jailed for a minimum of two years more than three years after he was videoed destroying greyhound urine swabs in a secretly recorded video shown at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Potter, 48, who perpetrated one of the greatest breaches of trust on the sporting public in recent history during nearly a decade of systemic corruption, has since vowed to help clean up the sport.
Of course that’s not related to this case re Dutrow but can you imagine the uproar that will follow should it be proven these NY stewards allowed a third party to plant evidence?
The sport is already wobbling and meandering through scandal after scandal. It cannot afford this to be proven.
Two separate things seem to be at play in this NY case. Firstly, the planting of evidence which is a crime in itself. But secondly, and seemingly as heinously, the depth of punishment.
Assistant steward, turned whistleblower, Lewandowski, said: “I state emphatically that his penalties for which he received 10 years and a $50,000 fine do not equal the infractions that occurred.
“ It was obvious, and still is, that this was a personal issue against Mr. Dutrow which did not merit the punishment he received.”
Rick Dutrow was a leading trainer at the time whose biggest success was guiding BIG BROWN to victory in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.
He was originally outed when a horse he trained returned a positive back in 2010. His horse tested positive for the powerful painkiller, butorphanol, in the post-race test on 20 Nov of that year, just 17 days after three syringes were ‘found’ in his barn filled with xylazine, a painkiller and a muscle relaxer.
He was given a 90-day suspension for the two violations and after appealing it on 16 Feb 2011, he had his license revoked due to his past history.
Over a period of 10 years prior to these infractions, Dutrow was often found guilty of run ins with the stewards.
I personally contacted the Media Director for the NYRA, who I know, repeatedly last week hoping for an official update on these new allegations, and he did not respond. Normally, he does.
This case may well grow into something bigger.