By T. D. Thornton
Richard E. Dutrow, Jr., the 63-year-old GI Kentucky Derby-winning trainer whose long and controversial history of racing infractions culminated in a 10-year license revocation in New York for a period that concluded last month, on Monday was granted approval for a trainer’s license by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC).
The announcement was read into the record during the regularly scheduled Feb. 27 NYSGC meeting without any commentary by commissioners.
“The former New York State Racing and Wagering Board revoked the Thoroughbred trainer’s license of Richard E. Dutrow, Jr., on Oct. 12, 2011, imposing ineligibility to apply for any license for 10 years and [fining] him $50,000,” said NYSGC executive director Rob Williams.
“Mr. Dutrow administratively and judicially contested the penalties [that commenced] Jan. 17, 2013. Having already satisfied his fine, Mr. Dutrow’s term of revocation ended on Jan. 17, 2023,” Williams said.
“Mr. Dutrow recently applied for a Thoroughbred trainer’s license, which was reviewed by the Bureau of Licensing in consultation with the division of racing,” Williams said.
“Review found that Mr. Dutrow satisfied the penalty imposed by the Racing and Wagering Board, and his record is bereft of transgressions during his period of revocation. Accordingly, the bureau has determined to issue a license to Mr. Dutrow to participate in New York horse racing,” Williams said.
Daily Racing Form’s David Grening quoted a NYSGC spokesperson as saying after the meeting that Dutrow does not yet have his license in hand because all the paperwork has yet to be filed. The spokesperson also said it “has yet to be determined” if there will be conditions placed on his license.
TDN’s efforts to reach Dutrow or his attorney did not result in callbacks prior to deadline for this story.
The online racing media outlet Past the Wire published the following statement attributed to Dutrow: “I am very pleased that the NYSGC has granted my request for a trainers license. I am thankful to many owners, trainers, jockeys, and many others who have offered me support. I look forward to resuming my career.”
According to Equibase, Dutrow’s trainees earned more than $87 million between 1979 and 2013. His trainees won multiple graded stakes, including three Breeders’ Cup races and the 2008 Kentucky Derby with Big Brown. He often topped the trainer standings at New York tracks during the 2000s decade.
Dutrow, who came across as a brazenly confident and unflinchingly candid when his horses were winning frequently at the national level about 15 years ago, was born into a Thoroughbred racing family. He is the middle son of the late Dick Dutrow Sr., a respected horseman who won 3,665 races over a five-decade span.
Rick dropped out of high school to pursue an education on the Maryland backstretch. but six weeks shy of his 17th birthday, he was kicked out of Pimlico Race Course for possession of marijuana.
Dutrow relocated to California, but his racing license was revoked at Hollywood Park because he falsified the application.
Returning home, his early years in the industry were marked by additional sanctions: A suspension for participation in a stolen check forgery scheme at Bowie in 1980; sanctions for marijuana possession on five separate occasions between 1980 and 1991; repeat suspensions for writing bad checks; failing to report a criminal conviction, plus a number of license refusals for “moral turpitude,” “evidence of unfitness,” and attempts to “deceive state racing officials.”
Eventually kicked out of his parents’ New York home, Dutrow and his father were no longer speaking when Dick Sr. died of pancreatic cancer in 1999. Dutrow moved into a storage room in a barn at Aqueduct.
Around 2000, Dutrow got introduced to Thoroughbred owner Sanford Goldfarb, who saw potential in Dutrow’s horsemanship despite his transgressions.
With the financial benefit of a steady client to furnish a decent stable, Dutrow developed a Midas-like touch for evaluating horses and substantially improving their performance, and Goldfarb became New York’s winningest owner from 2001 to 2003.
Expanding his operation to include such sports-world clients as baseball managers Don Zimmer and Joe Torre, Dutrow himself rocketed up the standings.
Yet at the same time, Dutrow’s official rap sheet maintained by the Association of Racing Commissioners International began to swell with violations related to an array of equine pharmaceuticals.
Between 2000 and his attempt to win the Triple Crown in 2008 with Big Brown, Dutrow was cited for 18 drug infractions, ranging from comparably benign violations for overages of legal medications phenylbutazone and Lasix, to more serious charges of using mepivacaine, an anesthetic that can be used to make sore horses feel no pain.
In addition to $20,000 in drug fines, Dutrow racked up a $5,000 penalty for providing misleading information to authorities about a workout, and was slapped with a $25,000 fine in 2007 for having contact with his stable while he was supposed to be serving a suspension.
The day before Big Brown won the 2008 GI Preakness Stakes, Dutrow told the Baltimore Sun that every month, he gave the Kentucky Derby winner-and his 120 or so other trainees-the anabolic steroid Winstrol, even though “I don’t know what it does. I just like using it.”
It’s important to note that at the time, steroids were legal in 28 of the 38 states that regulated Thoroughbred racing, including in the three Triple Crown race jurisdictions, Kentucky, Maryland, and New York.
Dutrow said at the time that he had no regrets about racing young horses on Winstrol, which has since been widely banned. He openly predicted Big Brown’s victory in the Belmont S. for three weeks, cocksuredly calling it “a foregone conclusion” that the colt would win the Triple Crown.
Big Brown finished last in the Belmont S., distanced as the 3-10 favorite.
But Dutrow’s revelation about steroids did not immediately fade away. It was part of what sparked a United States Congressional subcommittee hearing on equine drug abuse and racehorse deaths.
In fact, the testimony taken from racing industry participants at that June 2008 hearing was he impetus for the eventual formulation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act more than a decade later.
On Nov. 20, 2010, the Dutrow trainee Fastus Cactus tested positive for butorphanol after a winning effort at Aqueduct. Around the same time, Dutrow’s barn was searched and investigators claimed to have found in a desk drawer three syringes filled with a muscle relaxer, xylazine.
“New York’s racing industry has no place or patience for Mr. Dutrow,” Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini said at that time in a statement announcing Dutrow’s license had been revoked.
Dutrow battled that revocation for two years, both at the racing commission level and in the courts. In 2013 he filed a failed federal lawsuit seeking monetary damages and a reinstatement of his licensure.
In 2017, Dutrow filed for and was granted Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, claiming he had zero income and total liabilities of $1.76 million.
In 2018, a collective of supporters launched an online petition calling for the NYSGC to allow Dutrow to be allowed to return to training. The petition was signed by a number of Hall-of-Fame trainers and jockeys, but it failed to sway the commission.
In 2020, Dutrow’s legal team tried a different route by applying for a license in a different state. Appearing before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s License Review Committee, former NYSGC steward Stephen Lewandowski testified on Dutrow’s behalf, alleging that the syringes found in Dutrow’s barn in 2011 were planted.
But once it became clear that Kentucky was not going to allow Dutrow to be licensed, Dutrow withdrew the application so that a denial of licensure wouldn’t go on his record.