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Glen Hill Farm, LLC v. California Horse Racing Board

November 8, 2010


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. David P. Yaffe, Judge. Reversed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BS116655).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rothschild, Acting P. J.


The underlying dispute involves whether Medici Code, the horse who won the 2007 Del Mar Derby, should be disqualified because he cheated to meet the conditions for entry into the race. The trial court granted the petition for a writ of mandate brought by Glen Hill Farm, owner of the second-place horse, and ordered the California Horse Racing Board (Board) "to exercise its discretion as to whether or not the purse for the Del Mar Derby . . . should be redistributed and, if so, to whom such redistribution should be made."*fn1 We reverse.


In order to qualify for the 2007 Del Mar Derby a horse had to be three years old, have won, placed or showed in graded or group stakes races during the meet and accumulated a certain amount of earnings.

Medici Code finished second in the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar on July 18, 2007. In a postrace blood and urine test, however, he tested positive for a banned substance, Clenbuterol, in excess of the authorized level. The laboratory notified the Board of this test result on July 30, 2007. The Board notified Medici Code's owners and trainer of this test result sometime between July 30, 2007 and August 9, 2007, the day the trainer exercised the right to a second test by an independent laboratory. Under the Board's regulations these test results were confidential and released only to Medici Code's owners and trainer.

Before the results of the second test from the July 18 race were reported to the Board, Medici Code entered and won the La Jolla Handicap on August 11, 2007. But, again, he tested positive for an excess amount of Clenbuterol. The Board was notified of this test result on August 23, 2007, and the horse's owners and trainer were notified sometime between August 23, 2007 and September 4, 2007. The rule of confidentiality applied to these test results as well.

Meanwhile, based on his second place finish in the Oceanside Stakes, his first place finish in the La Jolla Handicap and his overall earnings, Medici Code qualified for the Del Mar Derby on September 2, 2007, which he won. This time he tested negative for any banned substances. He collected a purse of $240,000. The second place horse, owned by petitioner Glen Hill, collected $80,000.

On September 4, 2007, two days after the running of the Del Mar Derby, Medici Code's owners and trainer requested a second test of the blood and urine sample from the August 11 La Jolla Handicap.

On September 19, 2007, the laboratory conducting the second tests on the samples from the July 18 Oceanside Stakes and the August 11 La Jolla Handicap notified the Board of its findings. The findings confirmed the presence of illegal amounts of Clenbuterol in both races.

On September 21, 2007, the Board filed complaints against the owners and trainer of Medici Code for violation of the Board's drug policy. Filing the complaints removed the shield of confidentiality from the drug tests.

On October 16, 2007, counsel for Glen Hill wrote to the Board requesting a hearing on whether Medici Code should be disqualified from the Del Mar Derby and his purse redistributed on the ground that without his results in the Oceanside Stakes and La Jolla Handicap Medici Code would not have been eligible to run in the Derby.

On October 26, 2007 the Del Mar Board of Stewards (Stewards)*fn2 disqualified Medici Code from the Oceanside Stakes and the La Jolla Handicap and redistributed his earnings to the other horses in the races. The Stewards took no action regarding Medici Code's victory in the Derby. A few days later the Board's executive director informed Glen Hill of the Stewards' decision.

In a November 2007 letter to the Board, Glen Hill renewed its demand that Medici Code be declared ineligible for the Derby and his winnings redistributed to the other horses in the race. Alternatively, Glen Hill requested that the Board initiate a "Statement of Issues" proceeding under Government Code section 11504 to determine Medici Code's eligibility for the race and entitlement to the first place purse*fn3 or in the alternative to conduct a hearing under its authority to adjudicate controversies "arising from the enforcement of those laws and regulations dealing with horse racing." (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 19440, subd. (a)(3).)

On the Board's behalf, the Attorney General responded to Glen Hill's letter contending that (1) a Statement of Issues was not appropriate in this matter because the Board had not denied any "right, authority, license or privilege" to Glen Hill, (2) if Glen Hill objected to the way the Derby was run it should complain to the Del Mar Racing Association, and (3) the Board's adjudicatory power does not extend to ordering Medici Code ...

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