HISA ruling overturned in Maryland void-claim case

The curious case of the claim that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) ruled void more than two months later – and more than a week after the claimed horse’s death — may have reached its conclusion May 1.

That’s when an administrative law judge swatted down HISA and ruled in favor of Maryland-based trainer Derrick Parram. While HISA could appeal the decision into the US court system, Parram’s lawyer, Richard Hackerman, thought it unlikely the body would do so.

Calling HISA’s actions “an abuse of discretion,” Federal Trade Commission Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell ruled that Parram will not have to return the $12,500 he received when Girls Love Me was claimed from him.

“Absolutely [justice was served in the case],” Hackerman said in an interview following the outcome. “You shouldn’t have to buy back a horse a month later after other people have been handling the horse. It’s not fair.”

For all of that, though, the case actually turned on a somewhat arcane matter of law: whether HISA had impermissibly “borrowed” Maryland’s drug rules, using them as its own, to reach its conclusion.

HISA’s void-claim regulation generally directs that claims be voided if a claimed horse tests positive under HISA’s anti-doping and medication control (ADMC) rules after a race. Girls Love Me came back with a positive following the race in which he was claimed – but the positive was under Maryland regulations. HISA’s ADMC program – its drug rules – had not yet gone into effect.

[Parram case materials are available here.]

Nevertheless, Maryland’s stewards subsequently ruled – and a HISA adjudicatory panel agreed – that HISA had rightly allowed Maryland’s drug regulations to serve as a stand-in for its own, pending their adoption, which finally took place several months later.

Not so fast, Chappell said. While Maryland’s drug rules remained in effect and had not been preempted by HISA, he wrote, they remained in effect to be enforced by state regulators, not the federally-created HISA. Indeed, had HISA tried to enforce a drug rule prior to the adoption of its own program, it “would have been prohibited from attempting” to do so.

“The fact that Maryland’s drug prohibition regulations were not preempted [by HISA rules] does not justify ignoring the plain text” of HISA rules to use them instead of non-existent HISA regs, he wrote.

Moreover, HISA argued that reading the law in this manner would create an “enforcement gap” in which adopted rules dependent on not-yet-adopted rules would have no force. Chappell was not persuaded.

That gap, Chappell wrote, was “baked into” the legislation that created HISA: a feature, in other words, and not a bug.

Regardless, he wrote, “The enforcement risk associated with the gap should fall on the Authority [HISA], not on the targets of the Authority’s enforcement powers.”


“You look at HISA’s rules about prohibited substances,” Hackerman said. “It was clearly defined: they weren’t in effect.”

The trouble began December 9, 2022, when trainer Dale Capuano and owners Lou Ulman and Walter Vieser dropped $12,500 to claim Girls Love Me from owner-trainer Parram. Girls Love Me finished second as the favorite that day and was selected for post-race drug testing.

On December 31, though the drug test had not yet come back, the new connections ran her back, and he finished fifth, again as the favorite. Worse, he suffered a knee injury.

Her connections sent her for surgery January 20, 2023, but nine days later he colicked and died.

In the meantime, however, the test results had come back January 6, and they found that in the December 9 race, Girls Love Me carried dexamethasone and trichlormethiazide in her system. Both are anti-inflammatory medications considered therapeutic with limited potential to enhance a horse’s performance; and according to the judge’s ruling, neither was a factor in either Girls Love Me’s injury or subsequent colic.

The medications were not permitted under Maryland’s rules, and the stewards initially ruled only that the horse be disqualified from all purse money and Parram receive one multiple medication violation point on his record.

When the new connections learned of the positive – after the horse’s death, they told HISA in a statement — they appealed to Maryland’s stewards, alleging the claim should be voided because of the positive test. Following a hearing, the stewards agreed, citing HISA rules, and ordered that Parram refund Ulman and Vieser the money they paid to claim Girls Love Me.

Thus, Parram would be out both the money and the horse. Particularly given the amount of time that had passed and the circumstances which transpired, that outcome didn’t strike anyone as particularly fair. Even Ulman, the former chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission, and Vieser, who both stood to benefit from the decision, urged HISA to adopt a third course.

“Although we strongly believe that the Steward’s [sic] ruling should be upheld, we urge you to have HISA make all parties in this matter whole through its funds,” they wrote. “The Stewards are HISA agents under your agreement with the Maryland Racing Commission. Had they promptly voided the claim, this issue would not be before you.”

While HISA could appeal the decision, it seems unlikely to do so. In fact, it has proposed modifying its void-claim rules to deal with this very situation. The new proposal would prohibit a claimant from voiding a claim if he or she runs the horse in a race or fails to seek to void it within 48 hours of being notified of a positive, or if the horse dies or is euthanized in the claimant’s care.

Chappell’s ruling leaves intact the state sanctions against Parram, most prominently the loss of purse money.

The Jamaica-born Parram has a small operation based at Laurel Park. His best season came in 2021, when his runners won six races and generated purse earnings of nearly $170,000. So far in 2024, he has one win from six starts made by four different horses. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Note: This article originally referred several times to Girls Love Me as “she.” In fact, he was a gelding. We regret the error.