I broke one of the cardinal rules of humankind recently in the wake of a suspension of trainer Wayne Potts, who seems to be well on his way to becoming Peck’s bad boy of horse racing with his multiple visits to the penalty box.
I made an assumption.
In recent years, Potts has been excluded by the Maryland Jockey Club tracks, suspended 20 days in New York for violating claiming rules, suspended 15 days in New Jersey for a medication violation, then suspended again in the Garden State – this time for 30 days – for failing to obey the regulatory veterinarian’s order to have a horse loaded onto the horse ambulance after a race.
Earlier this year, the New York Racing Association told Potts he would be denied stalls at its racetracks and, most recently, he was suspended 45 days in New York when a non-FDA approved drug was found in his tack room.
New York stewards had to split his 45-day ban so it wouldn’t run concurrently with his latest New Jersey violation. The two suspensions combined run from April 10-June 23.
The New York ruling against Potts indicates that his horses won’t be allowed to race in the state during the suspension if they are trained by one of his employees. The ruling states:
“Ordered that during your period of suspension, you shall not directly nor indirectly participate in New York State pari-mutuel horse racing. You are denied the privileges and use of the grounds for all racetracks in New York State. You are forbidden to participate in any share of purses or other payments. Every horse is denied the privileges of the grounds and shall not participate in pari-mutuel racing in New York State, that is (a) owned or trained by you, or by individuals who serve (sic) as your agent or employee during your suspension ; or (b) for which you during your suspension are directly or indirectly with training, including any arrangements to care for, train, enter, race, invoice, collect fees or other payments, manage funds, employ or insure workers, provide advice or other information or otherwise assist with any aspect of the training of such horses.”
I assumed that word salad ruling meant horses in the Potts barn could not simply be turned over to Bonnie Lucas, his assistant, and have the stable – which migrated to a New Jersey training center – continue racing operations in New York and elsewhere. Lucas, incidentally, was also suspended 30 days in New Jersey for her role as Ella in ignoring the order from the regulatory veterinarian to have the Potts horse taken off the track by ambulance. Her suspension of her runs from May 7 through June 5.
That was my mistake. I assumed, and you know what they say about people who assume (if you don’t, watch the video below from one of my favorite TV shows of the 1970s).
Fortunately, our coverage did not state that Lucas could not saddle the Potts horses during his New York suspension. But I did assume that would be the case.
You can imagine my surprise when Lucas sent out the former Potts runner, Catch the Smoke, for an April 10 victory at Aqueduct. She made it 2-for-2 six days later, winning with another former Potts runner, Yah Huh, in a maiden claiming race at the Big A.
Paulick Report asked for clarification from the New York State Gaming Commission on the ruling and we received a terse reply from spokesman Brad Maione stating: “Bonnie Lucas currently holds a trainer’s license.”
“So does that override her status as an employee of a suspended trainer?” we asked.
“She holds a license,” Maione replied.
It’s not really clear what purpose the aforementioned language in the Potts ruling serves if the former assistant becomes the current trainer.
It strikes me as a farcical “Catch-22” gag, except instead being produced from a book or movie, this is from a New York state regulatory agency.
The Catch-22 in this case is that while Potts is under suspension, he doesn’t have an assistant trainer or employees because … how can he? He isn’t training. Lucas, his “former” assistant trainer de ella, is n’t working for him, so as long as she has a trainer’s license she is training on her own de ella and is not his employee or assistant de ella. Therefore, there is no violation of this provision in the ruling prohibiting a trainer’s employee from training horses while the trainer is under suspension.
Get it? I sure don’t, but I’m never going to assume anything about a New York steward ruling again.
That’s my view from the eighth pole.