A circuit court judge in Kentucky upheld the state's racing commission regulation restricting claimed horses from competing at other tracks until the meeting from which the horse was claimed is over. The rule was challenged last year by California-based owner Jerry Jamgotchian, who said the rule violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip J. Shepherd on Thursday granted a motion by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for summary judgment and denied Jamgotchian's motion.
Other states have adopted similar rules restricting the entry of claimed horses at other tracks.
In making the ruling, Shepherd said that the “administrative regulation is a proper exercise of the Commission's regulatory authority that does not on its face discriminate against interstate commerce, that any incidental burden on interstate commerce as a result of this regulation is slight, and that the local benefits of the regulation outweigh any burden on interstate commerce. Accordingly, the plaintiff's Commerce Clause challenge must be rejected, and the validity of the regulation must be sustained.”
Jamgotchian claimed the Pennsylvania-bred maiden filly Rochitta for $40,000 from a race at Churchill Downs on May 17, 2011. When he attempted to enter the filly at Penn National, the ruling states, a representative of that track called the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to inquire about any claiming race restrictions and was told such an action would violate 810 KAR 1:015, 1 (6) (b).
“Plaintiff, fearing fines and the loss of his Kentucky racing license, declined to participate in the race, forfeiting his entry fee,” Shepherd wrote. “Plaintiff entered the horse into three subsequent races, knowing of the restriction.”
Rochitta eventually raced at Presque Isle Downs on July 8, 2011, four days after the Churchill Downs meeting closed.
Jamgotchian sued the commission, saying the regulation restricts interstate commerce guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Shepherd, however, noted “governments may enact regulations that ensure proper operation of necessary governmental services, even if those regulations have an incidental burden (on) interstate commerce.”
Attorneys for Jamgotchian argued that horse racing is not a “governmental service” but Shepherd wrote that “there can be no question that regulation of horse racing is, and always has been, a traditional government function.”
In addition, Shepherd wrote, “The duration and scope of the restriction appears to impose relatively minimal burdens on interstate commerce, as the restriction only applies for the duration of the meet in which the horse was purchased (in Mr. Jamgotchian's case, 42 days.)”
Jamgotchian, who did not indicate whether or not he would appeal, made the following statement in reaction to the ruling: “This is yet another reason why many horse owners are getting out of horse racing, racetracks are closing and the sport is declining in handle, popularity and attendance. This unfortunate decision against horse owner rights will hurt everyone and promises to further reduce field size, available broodmares, stallion books and close many more breeding farms in Kentucky and throughout the United States. Let's see how well the racetracks and the racing commissions can survive without horses and owners.”
Click here to read Judge Shepherd's Opinion and Order.
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