By: Matt Hegarty

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday filed a notice of appeal with the Franklin Circuit Court to challenge a recent ruling involving trainer Graham Motion that raised issues with the state’s absolute-insurer rule, according to a copy of the notice provided by the commission.

The notice, which states that the commission is appealing the ruling “in its entirety,” is a formality that sets in motion the appeals process, which will take months, with briefs in the appeal not expected for at least 60 days.

The case is being closely watched in the racing industry because the ruling from the Franklin Circuit Court was the first challenge to the absolute-insurer rule in nearly 50 years. Under the decision, Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that the racing commission violated Motion’s due-process rights by prohibiting him from entering evidence in a commission-level appeal that challenged the state’s establishment of threshold levels for the regulated medication methocarbamol.

“To disallow a trainer to safeguard his license, a trainer must receive due process to be heard on the propriety of his action to challenge liability for a dosing violation,” Wingate wrote in the ruling.

Motion had appealed a penalty levied by the commission after a horse he trained, Kitten’s Point, tested positive for a trace amount of methocarbamol, a regulated muscle relaxant, following a win in the 2015 Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland. Wingate’s ruling threw out the penalty and restored Kitten’s Point as the winner of the $150,000 race.

The racing commission had initially suspended Motion for five days, but Motion appealed that penalty. The commission ultimately dropped the five-day suspension but assessed a $500 fine while upholding the disqualification. Motion then appealed the case in circuit court, arguing that the commission had overstepped its bounds when setting the threshold level and prohibiting the trainer from arguing the scientific merits of the level during the appeal.