Juan Vazquez got himself fined and suspended today for doing nothing.
The veteran trainer was slapped with a $2,500 fine and received 15 days’ suspension from the Maryland Racing Commission at its meeting today for failing to appear before it after being properly noticed — in this case, via certified mail, first class mail, and by hand, according to Commission executive director Mike Hopkins. The Commission left open the possibility of revoking the penalties if Vazquez could show cause for his failure to attend or notify it.
What made today’s case particularly unusual was that it was Vazquez himself who had initiated the proceedings for which he failed to post.
Back on May 4, Shamroge, a horse trained by Vazquez and ridden by Fray Martinez, finished second in a starter allowance at Pimlico to Singing My Way, trained by Michael Gorham. Singing My Way, the 1-9 favorite, zipped to the early lead and controlled the 1 1/16 mile dirt race. In the stretch, Shamroge bid up outside of Singing My Way, who took an erratic course through the lane under Victor Carrasco.
Martinez, aboard Shamroge, objected against Carrasco and Singing My Way, but the stewards ruled no change in the order of finish, leaving Shamroge in second.
That led Vazquez, who trains the horse for his King Star LLC partnership, to appeal to the Commission itself to overturn the stewards’ ruling.
That appeal, always a longshot, became moot when he failed to show up.
The burden of proof, stressed Commission lawyer Eric London, was on the appellant to demonstrate that the stewards had erred in failing to change the order of finish. By failing to appear, Vazquez also failed to meet that burden. Gorham, the trainer of the winner, had come down from Delaware Park for the hearing; Victor Carrasco also attended.
Vazquez, reached after the meeting, said that he had received the letter of notice but had not otherwise heard from the Commission. He also indicated that he had been unable to attend the meeting because of a court date stemming from the incident, earlier this year, when he fought with jockey Trevor McCarthy following a race at Delaware Park. Vazquez indicated that he would likely appeal the latest penalties.
“Nobody from the Racing Commission said anything to me,” he said. “I think it’s not right.”
NOTES FROM THE MARYLAND RACING COMMISSION
- The Commission gave final nods to a pair of Thoroughbred regulations it had previously approved. The first allows claims of horses to be voided for a period of one hour after a race is made official if the horse had to be vanned off. The second furthers the intent of the previously crafted agreement that allows for increased bonuses paid to the owners of Maryland-breds.
- The Commission approved the renewal of the Maryland Jockey Club’s permit to simulcast at Pimlico and, pending the receipt of proper paperwork, the Riverboat in Colonial Beach.
- On the sulky side, the Commission approved 48 days of live racing, plus simulcasting year-round, for Ocean Downs for 2015 and 54 days plus simulcasting for Rosecroft. The latter’s situation is complicated by its expiring agreement with Thoroughbred horsemen to receive Thoroughbred signals. That agreement ends on December 31, 2014, and, according to Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association general counsel Alan Foreman, includes provisions that call for a 30-day negotiating window following the expiration of the contract, followed by binding arbitration if no agreement is reached. According to Foreman, the contract as is would remain in force during the negotiating and arbitration periods.