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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Slam Dunk

- You can read the actual court decision upholding Pletcher's suspension here (pdf document) (hat tip to Racing and Gaming Today at the Albany Law School site). It's a pretty interesting read.

I suppose that many such appeals have used strategy similar to what Pletcher's lawyers tried. The trainer stands accused of having "administered mepiviaine to a horse within seven days of a race." His lawyers pointed out that the word "administer," as defined in the Board's own regulations, is to "cause the introduction of a substance into the body of a horse," and that the Board "arbitrarily interprets that term to include not only deliberate introduction, but also introduction by unintentional or reckless acts, or, indeed, by no act at all."

This was termed as an "undue burden" on the trainers, but the Court turned the whole argument aside like Pletcher's Circular Quay was by Street Sense. Though the Court asserts that the regulation deliberately places "strict responsiblity" on the trainer to keep the horse drug-free, the Court notes that this presumption is not iron clad. "..The trainer can rebut it with substantial evidence proving that he or she is, in fact, not responsible for the drug's presence.."

But to the theory presented by Pletcher's star witness that the horse was "inadvertantly exposed" to the drug, the Court succinctly replied that "speculation will not rebut the presumption." That seems like the equivalent of a judicial slam dunk, in your face.

- Reader Jim mentions the absurdity of the fact that trainer suspensions are little more than a vacation, as the stables' operations run business as usual under the nominal care of an assistant trainer; as in the case of Scott Blasi sitting in for Steve Asumussen. It's really incredible to look at Blasi's stats. It's been around five months now since he took over, and in that time, he's started 875 runners! That really gives you an idea of the vast scope of the Asmussen operation. I wonder how many horses out of the 875 Blasi actually attended to on race day?

1 Comment:

El Angelo said...

I'll just note as an attorney that the standard of proof to upend a lower court decision is fairly high, and I can't say it's at all surprising that taking a fairly liberal/lenient perspective on the construction of that particular law was dismissed in favor of taking a more stringent model of liability on the horse's behalf.