Vitali Barred From Entry Box At Tampa Bay Downs, Hunter Ordered To Vacate Gulfstream Barn Area

by | 11.26.2016 | 8:02pm
A string of horses at Gulfstream Park, seen in Marcus Vitali's tack, were listed as being trained by Allan Hunter

Two months after he was ruled off at Gulfstream Park, trainer Marcus Vitali will not be permitted to enter horses at Tampa Bay Downs, according to track officials there. Vitali had entered Silver Wraith, a 3-year-old maiden in the track's fourth race on the Nov. 26 opening day card and was an also-eligible. On Saturday morning, Silver Wraith – owned and bred by Crossed Sabres Farm – was listed as a steward's scratch.

“After we had done some further investigations, we decided we're not going to take his entries at this point in time,” said Tampa Bay Downs vice president and general manager Peter Berube. “You won't see him in the entry box anymore.”

As reported by the Paulick Report in September, Vitali was informed by Gulfstream officials his entries would no longer be taken at Stronach Group tracks after they determined he was using fellow trainer Allan Hunter as a “program trainer.” Vitali was using a visitor's pass to access the backside routinely, often visiting the Hunter barn, during which time horses worked out in equipment bearing his initials. During this time, Vitali was unlicensed, having surrendered his license and avoiding sanctions for seven positive tests detected in Florida between October 2015 and January 2016.

Vitali's license was ultimately reinstated by the state of Florida, which handed him a 120-day suspension retroactive to his application date in July. His license was reinstated Oct. 29.

At the time Vitali was ruled off, Hunter was told to remove all horses he was accused of program training for Vitali from Gulfstream's grounds. He was permitted to keep training approximately a dozen horses after demonstrating to Gulfstream officials that he was indeed the trainer of those horses.

On Nov. 22, Silver Wraith recorded a five-furlong workout at Gulfstream Park, clocking in at 1:01.90 – the latest in a string of regular workouts dating in Equibase back to Oct. 10. Silver Wraith's last start came in May 28 at Pimlico under Vitali. After an additional investigation, vice president of racing P.J. Campo found that Hunter had been training the horse for Vitali during this time, despite what he told Campo and others in September.

“We're not going to tolerate that behavior, and I told him to move the horses,” said Campo, who ordered Hunter to remove any and all of his remaining horses at Gulfstream, which Campo estimated totaled about 10. “We're not going to tolerate it.”

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