By: Frank Angst

After determining Otabek Umarov violated out-of-competition testing rules and possessed hypodermic needles, syringes, and injectable medications at Churchill Downs, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards revoked his owner-trainer’s license for 10 years and fined him $10,000.

The stewards determined Umarov prevented an out-of-competition sample from being collected from Looks to Spare April 30 at Churchill Downs. A report following a Friday, May 27 formal hearing before the stewards said Umarov removed the 6-year-old Pollard’s Vision gelding from Churchill to an undisclosed location after notification that the horse had been selected for sampling.

The board of stewards said the removal of the horse, who Umarov claimed for $5,000 and ran in several grade I races, including a third in last year’s Clark Handicap (gr. I), was an aggravating circumstance in determining the penalty. The revocation was the longest handed out in the four years Barbara Borden has served as KHRC chief steward.

Umarov said he will appeal the decision. He said he did not refuse out-of-competition testing and a misunderstanding occurred because he was not sure the person who said he was at the barn to conduct the out-of-competition testing was actually there on behalf of the stewards. He said in other states, two officials would always show up with a document calling for the horse to be tested. He said that didn’t occur in Kentucky.

“There’s all those people on the backstretch Derby week and this guy comes up to me and says he wants to draw the horse’s blood. He showed me no license, no papers, nothing,” Umarov said. “I said I’d need to confer with the stewards’ office first then I’d get back to him. Then when I went to the stewards’ office, they already said I refused to let them pull the horse’s blood. But I didn’t refuse it.”

Umarov, originally from Uzbekistan, said he’s a newcomer to the game who has followed the rules. He noted that Looks to Spare has started in some of the country’s biggest races, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park and the Breeders’ Cup undercard Marathon Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland. He said a more-established trainer would not have received as harsh a penalty.

Looks to Spare, upset winner of last year’s West Virginia Governor’s Stakes, was being pointed to the May 6 Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill but ultimately was not entered.

“It was a misunderstanding. This is discrimination, 100%. I’m from a Muslim country,” Umarov said. “This horse ran in multiple top races at multiple tracks and he always came back clean; he never tested positive. … These guys just threw me under the bus. It’s discrimination. For nothing they gave me 10 years. It’s just unbelieveable, I’m just dissappointed.

“I’m a new trainer; I consider myself an apprentice trainer,” Umarov said. “If it was a trainer with some big operation, I can guarantee you they wouldn’t have treated them like this.”

According to the stewards’ report, after Umarov prevented the out-of-competition sample from being collected he was not truthful with commission representatives, was disorderly by failing to obey stewards’ orders, and was engaged in conduct against the best interests of horse racing. The report said those were all aggravating factors that factored in determination of the penalty.

Following Umarov’s efforts that prevented collection of the out-of-competition sample, according to the stewards’ report following Friday’s formal hearing, Umarov was found to be in possession of hypodermic needles, syringes, and injectable medications April 30 at Churchill. The report said Umarov also made a “material misrepresentation, falsification, or omission” in an application for a license. For each of those violations, Umarov’s license was revoked one year to run concurrent with the 10-year revocation.

Entry of all horses owned or trained by Umarov is denied pending transfers to persons acceptable to the stewards. Furthermore, Umarov is required to appear before the License Review Committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for any future license consideration.

The stewards suspended Umarov May 3, shortly after he was ejected by Churchill Downs.