By: Frank Angst
A Kentucky court hearing scheduled Monday, Aug. 1 could determine if the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission can move forward on its intentions to immediately sanction trainer Otabek Umarov for allegedly refusing to allow a horse to receive pre-race testing and other violations in late April at Churchill Downs.
Franklin, Ky. Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd is scheduled to consider a temporary injunction Aug. 1 that would prevent the KHRC from immediately imposing a 10-year license suspension of Umarov. On June 23 Judge Shepherd granted Umarov a stay until an administrative hearing was concluded or until a temporary injunction could be considered.
That stay allowed Umarov to continue to train his horses although he has not entered any horses since the April 30 incident when he allegedly refused to allow out-of-competition testing on Looks to Spare. Churchill Downs took its own action, banning the trainer from racing at the Louisville, Ky. track.
The KHRC still wishes to immediately sanction trainer Umarov. Kentucky stewards issued a 10-year suspension of Umarov’s license and $10,000 fine for violations of out-of-competition testing rules and possession of hypodermic needles.
When Shepherd issued the stay, he noted the KHRC could file jurisdictional and dispositive motions and could motion to dissolve the restraining order under proper motion and notice to plaintiffs. Those motions have been filed.
In issuing the initial stay, Judge Shepherd noted that the imposition of penalty before completion of the appeal process would inflict immediate and irreparable injury on the plaintiff. He noted that the commission would retain the ability to regulate Umarov’s conduct during this time. On the administrative side, the next appeal by Umarov would go before a hearing officer.
The court also noted that in requesting the stay, Umarov’s attorney Justin Fowles raised a substantial factual question concerning whether non-compliance with KHRC directives were knowing defiance of an order by Umarov, or the result of miscommunication. The court also said the plaintiff brought up a substantial legal question regarding the severity of the penalty.