Report: Vitali Can't Run His Horses At Maryland Jockey Club Tracks - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Report: Vitali Can’t Run His Horses At Maryland Jockey Club Tracks

Laurel Park in Maryland

According to a published report, trainer Marcus Vitali will not be permitted to race horses at Laurel Park in Maryland after voluntarily relinquishing his occupational license in Florida, which allowed him to avoid sanctions after multiple medication violation complaints were filed against him by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

Bill Finley, writing in the Thoroughbred Daily News, said upper management of the Stronach Group – owner of Maryland Jockey Club tracks Laurel Park and Pimlico, along with Gulfstream Park in Florida, where Vitali was third leading trainer this winter – instructed the Laurel racing office not to accept entries from Vitali, pending further investigation.

It was reported here yesterday that Vitali, who has been charged with 24 medication violations in Florida since 2011, including nine in 2015 and two in 2016, avoided any penalties for the seven most recent complaints stemming from medication violations after voluntarily relinquishing his license and moving his stable from Gulfstream Park to Laurel Park.

Trainer Marcus Vitali voluntarily relinquished his trainer's license in Florida
Trainer Marcus Vitali voluntarily relinquished his trainer's license in Florida

The April 12 order dismissing the cases, signed by Jonathan Zachem, deputy secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and director of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, read: “Although the factual allegations contained in the Administrative Complaints, if true, present violations of Section 550.2415, Fla Stat., the Division is unable to prosecute Respondent because he is no longer licensed and the above style cases should therefore be DISMISSED. However, an alert will be placed on Respondent's file and if he is ever to re-apply for licensure in this state the above styled cases shall be re-opened and he shall be held responsible for the allegations contained in these administrative complaints.”

However, Florida statute would in fact appear to permit the state regulatory body to sanction anyone who was licensed when alleged violations occurred. According to Section 2(e) of Florida Statute's Chapter 550.105 (Occupational licenses of racetrack employees; fees; denial, suspension, and revocation of license; penalties and fines), the division “may bring administrative charges against any person not holding a current license for violations of statutes or rules which occurred while such person held an occupational license, and the division may declare such person ineligible to hold a license for a period of time.”

Florida statute would appear to permit officials to pursue charges against individuals who may no longer be licensed
Florida statute would appear to permit officials to pursue charges against individuals who may no longer be licensed

Division director Zachem did not return phone calls or respond to an email asking why, in light of the statute, the administrative complaints against Vitali were dismissed.

Vitali was represented by Daniel Russell, former general counsel for Gulfstream Park and part of the powerful Jones Walker law firm in Tallahassee. A partner in Jones Walker is Marc Dunbar, who currently represents Gulfstream Park on legislative affairs and is part of a group that convinced the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to license a barrel racing operation in Gretna as a legitimate racetrack in order to pursue a casino license.

According to the Thoroughbred Daily News article, horses already entered in Laurel races on Saturday and Sunday will be permitted to race.

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