A conversation with ARCI’s Ed Martin

In February, Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, caused quite a stir when he called for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to review the license of trainer Richard Dutrow, Jr.

Martin’s suggestion was greeted with both approbation and skepticism. Dutrow’s record of violations sits uneasily with those seeking integrity in racing, and Martin’s declaration was seen as a shot in the fight to rid the game of one who consistently breaks the rules, coming as it did shortly after the NYSRWB suspended Dutrow for 90 days after his Fastus Cactus tested positive for the painkiller Butorphanol.

Yet not everyone applauded Martin’s stance. Dutrow is not known for kowtowing to the press or the authorities – this is the man, after all, who famously called in sick when asked to appear before Congress – and in some quarters, Martin’s statement seemed geared towards sticking it to a man whose attitude rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

I recently spoke with Martin, who explained that his position has everything to do with what’s good for racing and nothing to do with the personality of the man involved.

Racing, said Martin, is “struggling with concept of deterrence.” He believes that the risk of losing the ability to participate in the sport could and would be an effective deterrent to those who have a continual pattern of disregard for the rules.

He makes clear that he did not call for Dutrow’s license to be revoked. “I suggested,” he said, “that Dutrow’s history of violations should be considered in the renewal of license.”

And he says that racing fans should expect to see more of the same in the near future. “In the next couple of months,” he explained, “we’ll be sending letters to racing commissions about licenses by virtue of the information in the RCI database, which is the only central record of violations of repeat offenders.”

Then, he pointed out, the matter is in the hands of individual jurisdictions. “We have no authority on licensing,” he said. “Jurisdictions have the authority to handle situations and our recommendations as they will. They’ll make their own decisions.” He acknowledged that the RCI does have “the power of the pulpit,” and can make recommendations to members, recommendations that are the process of extensive discussion with RCI members.

Martin spoke with me shortly after the ARCI’s annual conference, held this year in New Orleans in the days before the Louisiana Derby, and he said that one of the discussions focused on Hugh Gallagher of the Delaware Standardbred Association. According to Martin, the Delaware will now impose conditions on licenses for those who incur numerous repeat offenses in certain areas. If a chronic offender repeats, he would agree to surrender his license.

“It is,” Martin claimed, “a potential effective deterrent and it will get people to obey the rules.”

Martin characterized his request to the NYSRWB as a matter of timing. “We’ve been talking here [at the ARCI] about doing this, and Dutrow just happened to be the next guy to get another violation. It triggered what we’ve been talking about, about putting commissions on notice for repeat offenses as part of licensing review.  Dutrow just happened to be the one that tripped the wire.”

Martin insisted that personality had nothing to do with it. “I’ve never met the man,” he said. “His record is his record.”

Martin is a former executive director of the very organization on which he’s calling now to take a tough line. He left the NYSRWB in 2005, and he doesn’t, he said, remember working with Dutrow in his time at the board. He spoke in detail about the process by which decisions were made about offenses, but, he said, “I managed that process. I didn’t determine penalties.”

According to Martin, the RCI is determined to try to develop ideas and proposals that will improve the reputation of racing. He admitted that while the process of hearings and appeals is “very fair,” it comes under criticism because of how long it takes. He characterized those complaints as “very valid.”  “We wrestle with how to make the system work as efficiently as possible without denying constitutional rights. It’s a balance we have to play with.”

Martin also acknowledged the value of greater transparency. “We’re in discussions about to make the system, the process more public and transparent.” Asked about public access to the RCI database of violations and fine and suspension information, Martin said that the cost of public access would be prohibitive. “It’s a costly system to operate,” he explained, “and we do charge a fee to those who want to access the records. We can’t do it otherwise; we’re a small not-for-profit.”

Martin grew up on Long Island and he recalled that he used to cut his high school classes to go to Belmont. He’s been a consultant and a radio talk show host; he worked in the Reagan administration. His previous jobs, he said, pale in comparison to his current one. “Racing regulation,” he said, “is the most interesting, fascinating thing I’ve ever done.”

Update: late this morning, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission denied Dutrow a racing license.

9 thoughts on “A conversation with ARCI’s Ed Martin

  1. Teresa, Great work and great interview. Ed, thanks for beginning to initiate recommendations for excessive violators for racing commissions. It’s about time somebody took a stand. I and others love the sport of horse racing, and hate to see individuals repeatedly violate the rules, as if they don’t mean anything. The sport can only benefit.

  2. It’s about time someone takes a stand. Racing needs to clean up its act with regards trainer violations, medications, equine and jockey safety….I could go on and on.

  3. So Mr. Martin worked for the NYSRWB. When did he get that job? Was it when Pataki was governor? Also,according to the article he worked in the Reagan administration. If the answer to question 2 is yes, maybe there is a pattern here? IF no, I rest my case.

  4. I don’t know Dutrow, the man, either. As I said on another blog, when Dutrow was running Big Brown and becoming known to the public, he lost my vote when he got bleeped on a TAPED segment. C’mon, who does that?

    I lost further respect for him as he continued to disregard regulations in various racing jurisdictions. He does have a record of 82 violations, but to be fair, they’re not all drug positives as one might expect. But they are a compilation of a lack of judgment, lack of direction, lack of contrition, lack of character and integrity down the line.

    Even though I believe and expect due process, I am all for a state taking a stand. I’m glad somebody was able to put a colletive foot down and say ‘Perhaps he’s not good for racing.’

    Dutrow, as any trainer is when they sign a license application, is expected to KNOW the rules when he enters a horse in any state. He KNEW that once he entered a horse in KY and then was subsequently denied a license, he would not be able to transfer that horse to another trainer. And frankly, who would go to bat for this guy knowing his recent positives etc? They don’t know what he did with that horse yesterday or last week. What jeopardy could he put another trainer in?

    And he already knew that the KHRC was reviewing his record prior to his application. They had sent him a letter long ago. It would seem he expected to waltz in, enter and run. Why? Because thus far, he’s been able to write a check and go on his merry way. His actions tell me he feels he’s above reproach.

  5. Unfortunately, a judge’s order delayed the process.

    http://www.courierjournal.com/article/20110414/BUSINESS/304140045/1003/Judge-s-order-allows-Dutrow-trainee-run-Thursday

    The KHRC advised Dutrow a few weeks ago, that he needed to meet with them concerning his license. Dutrow was quoted as saying that he “wasn’t planning on running any horses in Kentucky this year.” That didn’t last long though, did it?

    It was very telling again, to see Dutrow focus on the responsibilities of others but, not on himself, not what he has done. With Dutrow, it’s always about everybody else. The accountability always lies elsewhere. “You guys could have said, ‘Rick,there’s a very good chance of you not being licensed,’ then, I could have entered them in another trainer’s name. I could have turned them over. Now they have to be scratched. What did the owners do wrong?”

    Well, Rick, to answer your question about the owners, it might have a little something to do with you repeatedly being caught breaking the rules in order to win, in order to make money, for both, you and the owners. Other trainers are trying to do the same thing but, they stay within the rules. We, for the most part, live in an orderly society. There are rules everyone should be obeys. The sport of thoroughbred horseracing in America has rules, too. This is not foreign. When you got your trainer’s license you agreed to be bound by the rules. When someone breaks the rules they are sanctioned. What may be the problem for the owners, is that you break the rules in order to make money for them, and you do it repeatedly. In fact, you have been found to have broken the rules so severely, and so often, that people wonder why you are allowed to continue doing what you do. Your owners may not care that you break the rules so you and they can win but, officials, other trainers, other owners, and racing fans do. For all owners, there may be the matter of accountability, too. If you employ someone who, disregards or breaks the rules, you may lose purse money, awards, etc. Dutrow was quoted, “It’s okay what you did to me. But not what you did to the owners. They came here in good faith.” Yes, Rick, I trust that the owners were well aware that they were using a trainer who was very good at repeatedly breaking the rules in order to make money and win races for them. You have been very good at that. I’m sure that they had great faith, that you would and could do it, again. It doesn’t bother them. It bothers the rest of us.

    The saga continues. The process goes on but, we’re further along, thanks to what Ed Martin has initiated than ever before. May 11 – 12, Dutrow is scheduled to have a hearing with the New York State Racing & Wagering Board. We will see how that goes. Dutrow may have been the first individual trainer to be focused on but, may not be the last. I do believe what is happening will send a very, very strong message to others, that if you break the rules of racing in haste and often enough, over a period of time, you will repent in leisure.

  6. Teresa, there is going to be a documentary on the sport of thoroughbred horseracing on PBS television a couple of days before the Kentucky Derby, a lot of the filming and interviews were done at Aqueduct. I heard it was supposed to be good, and I plan on watching it. I thought others might be interested in watching it, too.

    http://www.brisnet.com/cgi-bin/editorial/news/article.cgi?id=21483

    This next item is not racing related. I thought you might be interested in seeing it, if you hadn’t seen it already. I know you’re a busy person.

    http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/blog/26011/cats+amazingly+cute+encounter+with+dolphins+becomes+internet+sensation/

  7. All the kings horses and men-in 6 months he won’t be able to run a donkey in Tijuana. To Lisa J, how many drug positives do you think he dodged over the years? If you only knew. A defining moment for the sport has begun for sure. Long time coming, and expect those owners will be heading for the hills, maybe foxholes, these mortars will be brutal. Teresa, good work!

  8. mary,mary: I believe that Mr. Martin began working at the NYSRWB in around 1996. I’m not sure what you’re implying.

    August, I had seen that video. It’s extraordinary.

    Thanks for the comments, folks, and glad you enjoyed this. I appreciate Mr. Martin’s being willing to talk to me.

  9. Thanks to Ed Martin and his vague references to Dutrows Violations. In his letter to the Board Ed Martin made disclosure as to dutrows violations. After personally revieiwing the violations my self i noticed one thing that Ed martin lacks to mention. Dutrow doesnt have many drug positives. he does have alot of administrative violations. But then again if Ed Martin were to mention that it wouldnt further the cause. As he wants it to happen. Hey Mr Martin after you go after all these radical changes are you planning to form a nazi regime for racing. So only those who are worth can participate. Racing needs change what we dont need is radicals popping out of nowhere with the intention of getting there own way cause they failed while on the commision.

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