Vitali Gets Stay Of Parx Racing Ejection, Seeking Florida HBPA Board Position

by | 02.15.2017 | 8:44am
Trainer Marcus Vitali

Trainer Marcus Vitali received a stay from the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission of an eviction notice by Parx Racing and will be permitted to run the horse Eagle of Delight at the suburban Philadelphia racetrack on Saturday.

Vitali, who was denied stalls and whose entries were banned at Gulfstream Park and other tracks owned by The Stronach Group tracks last year, attempted to enter Eagle of Delight at Parx Racing Nov. 18, 2016. The entry was refused by the track's director of racing and racing secretary, Sam Elliott. Vitali, through attorney Alan Pincus, sought a hearing on the matter, but that request was denied by Tom Chuckas, Thoroughbred Bureau Director of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, on the basis that denial of entries is not governed by Section 9326 of the Pennsylvania Racing Act.

Vitali then sued both Elliott and Chuckas in federal court in December, saying that Vitali's due process rights under Pennsylvania law were being violated.

Attorneys for Elliott and Vitali reached an agreement in January, whereby Parx would issue an ejection letter to Vitali and the lawsuit subsequently was dismissed. Elliott said the ejection was based on what he alleged as conduct “detrimental to racing.”

Vitali sought and received a stay of that ejection from the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, forcing Parx to accept his entries, pending a hearing in front of the commission.

Vitali, meanwhile, is actively seeking a seat on the board of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, where he previously served until last spring, when he resigned after voluntarily relinquishing his trainer's license in Florida. It was that move – relinquishing his license in Florida and moving his stable to Maryland in an apparent attempt to delay sanctions for multiple medication violations – that set in motion a series of events that led to Vitali being banned at Stronach Group tracks, Tampa Bay Downs in Florida and now Parx.

Vitali eventually renewed his Florida license, was fined $7,000 and served a 120-day suspension as part of an agreement with the state of Florida last year. According to an article by Natalie Voss in the Paulick Report, Vitali routinely used visitor's passes to gain access to restricted areas of Gulfstream Park during training hours during his suspension while his horses were running in the name of trainer Allan Hunter. His attorney in Florida, Bradford Beilly, said Vitali was not using the passes to train horses while under suspension.

Gulfstream Park eventually banned Vitali from the entry box and denied him stalls. Hunter was told to remove horses once trained by Vitali. Vitali's most recent starters were at Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts in August. Hunter has not started a horse since November at Gulfstream Park West, according to Equibase.

A letter sent to Florida HBPA members and purportedly signed by Vitali (though the printed last name below the signature is misspelled as “Vitale”) reads, in part: “The challenges I am facing now could happen to ANY horseman. … I am running because the best path forward toward real change – and ensuring what happened to me doesn't also happen to you – is to serve you once again. I will put my business ability to work for you, along with the knowledge I've gained in navigating administrative, operational and legislative hurdles all of us will inevitably face simply in the course of running our day-to-day business.”

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Allan Hunter was banned from Gulfstream Park.

  • Kevin Callinan

    PARX has become Devil’s Island.

  • A penny for your thoughts

    I guess anyone can win an election lol

    Oh and PA racing = a joke

  • Fits right in with the Florida HBPA crowd.

    • WT

      Yup

    • Tinky

      Harry Benson looks like a saint, in retrospect.

    • David Juffet

      Who is the HBPA protecting? I just don’t get it.

    • bonniemcdo

      Had a nice filly of mine claimed at Parx. She was running every week after that. I noticed her win at Penn National was voided due to drug violations. No problem, she was entered to run at Parx. I bought her back for double her claim price and she is resting in Ky now. But the trainer had a series of violations. Again- no problem, he runs at NYRA now along with Pa tracks. What can you say???? Stay away from Pa tracks?

      • Rob B

        Was that whole post just to mention that you paid double the price just to claim her back so you can pat yourself on the back? I bet the facts stated aren’t 100% accurate either with racing schedule mentioned or paying double the claiming price. Also if u claimed her for double she must have been doing well or you originally dropped her in so far below her value just for anybody to claim her. At that point you can’t complain. I’m not saying all these statements are 100 accurate but I am questioning the likely exxagerated facts you’ve stated.

        • bonniemcdo

          I was going to claim her for 10K but the race did not go. She raced at Penn national then and came in first but was later disqualified. for positive drugs. We had offered a private sale but were turned down. She was racing every week. She was set to race and I had a terrible feeling and then offered a private purchase again. I bought her as a two year old in training. She won once. She was worth 10K . It was what she was originally claimed for when she came in sixth at Parx. She is named in memory of my husband who died of cancer 2 years ago. I just wanted her back. Nothing exaggerated. I had an emotional attachment to her and did not want to see her raced every week. She was the first horse I bought after my husband passed away. So- I hope that clears things up.

          • Rob B

            So the things you stated in first post weren’t totally accurate. Sorry to hear about your husband.

          • bonniemcdo

            I said she was worth 10K which is what she was running for and I did pay double the price so that I could get her back. She was mentioned in an article about horses failing drug tests and I did get upset. Glad I got her back. She is in Ky now resting. My husband and I have been doing this for over 10 years. Lost my best friend but this horse ‘s name is a nod to him. She is very sweet and of course my emotional attachment to her is great.

  • Larry Sterne

    What can one say except this is B S!!!. Weak governess. How can u give up your license because of the your clouded compliance history and the be granted a license again. It is not a right but a privilege to be able to train and race . have they done a thorough background check on owners . They are just as guilty and don’t have to be given owners license.

    • Doc

      The Supreme Court of the United States has held that a Trainer’s license is a property right and not a privilege in the Barchi case.

      • Gls

        How come my drivers license isn’t?

  • Stevie V

    Once integrity is not a prerequisite, all credibility is lost for the entire community

    • Old Timer

      Are you talking about horse racing or the U.S. in general after this recent election!

  • Henry Collazo

    What Marcus did is a crime, No two ways about. He cheated the public other owners and trainers that had horses in the race and the general public. It seems to me no one seems to understand what he did is a crime.

    • Ky Race Fan

      He needs to go away and stay away. This industry has enough problems!

      • billy

        Yes this guy is no different then preciado yank the fool show him the peace sign on the way out he’s no good for horses and that should be prerequisite number one

    • Hamish

      Lawyered up folks like this can typically find their way through some crack or loophole and get back in, unfortunately further proving this is a game of crooks and fools. He used the federal court system to get others to capitulate, so perhaps the next time he missteps the feds on the prosecutorial side will do the same thing.,

      • Farmer

        ALAN PINCUS!!!!!!! That name strikes fear into the hearts of pinhead stewards and incompetent racing stewards as well.

        • Rob G.

          Poor little Pincus

          • Alan Pincus

            Thanks for the Seinfeld reference. My father was a dry cleaner too.

          • nucky thompson

            That must have been the only clean suit you’ve ever been involved in.

          • Alan Pincus

            “His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean”… Bob Dylan

          • billy

            Your hands can’t be clean with all that dirty money you’ve touched do something good stop protecting the crooks and claiming innocence it’s rediculous

          • Due Process

            Ah, a good old lynch mob. Everybody is entitled to representation, regardless of what “public opinion” says about a person. I am no friend of Marcus Vitali, but just like Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher had lawyers represent their interests, Vitali is entitled to the same. Shame on you for not recognizing how important this right is.

          • billy

            I never said he wasn’t entitled to due process in fact I hope he gets his hearing next meeting that’s not gonna happen but would be nice things move way to slow on these matters…the sooner he’s no longer able to “train” the better off the horses are imo

          • Really?

            Due process is very important. It has to be followed across the board for these guys as well as the darlings of the sport. It’s awful when the blue bloods of the sport get a positive and everyone freaks out. Total double standard. However, the commission needs to move faster to avoid these things getting drawn out as the rest of the horseman are losing money while cheaters are allowed to continue……

          • Exhausted Race Fan

            Too bad he wasn’t a jockey. You may then possibly grasp the disdain for your work and obvious disregard for their life.

          • Gls

            You should have been!

    • fooled

      for sure he has done damage to alot of horses as well

    • Vendettaroad

      Hunter cast suspicions on himself now, being that hard up to,get in the winners circle.
      When I noticed Hunter won a couple races it seemed unnatural. I,didn’t,
      know he was being a pawn for a cheater.
      THOROUGHBRED RACING is an INSIDERS GAME – frequently those responsible for it’s honest oversight (STEWARDS / TRACK OFFICIALS) -are former “players” JOCKEYS / TRAINERS or their worthless sons (nepotism)!
      Can we expect matters to improve like that?

    • Vendettaroad

      Henry speaking up doesn’t surprise me as he is one of the classiest
      men / Trainers on the backside of any racetrack.
      The problem is few Trainers will, as the tracks hold stall assignments over the heads of any “BOAT ROCKERS”

  • Duke

    Why can’t we all get along!!!

  • Tip Top Tapit

    Sam’s friends keep suing him.

  • horsepower

    Yet another huge black eye on a very challenged Industry

  • Barrmorr

    I am a racing fan that lives in the Philadelphia area and I refuse to go to Parx because guys like Vitali and Preciado are allowed to continue to enter horses there after multiple medication violations. It seems like the Pennsylvania Racing Commission is either inept or corrupt in their regulation of the sport. Both situations are intolerable.

    • wmk3400

      I lived in Bensalem and NE Philly for 12 years and I hear you (I’m south of Philly now). There is nothing about that facility that doesn’t suck and I don’t even think about betting on their product. Only the dregs of the dregs are banished from there and from what I’ve seen they have to work hard at it.

    • billy

      Look who’s in the commission and where they came from who their friends are and such

    • Patrick

      “seems like the Pennsylvania Racing Commission is either inept or corrupt”

      those two options are not mutually exclusive

  • Mike Oliveto

    The horsemen as a collective should refuse to enter any horses into any races where Vitali has a horse entered. The racing office will never run a 1-horse race. It will be disruptive for the short term but will drive Vitali out in the long term. The horsemen need to do what the overseers are too limp to do.

    • Old Timer

      While a noble thought, that would actually be racing fixing since no one is to know until the overnights have been drawn as to who actually are in what races definitively. Yes everyone knows to some degree who is in because of the conditions of the races, but to say horsemen are going to know exactly is not gonna happen.

      Now if all the horsemen recognized that their horses had abscessed feet, or colicky horses that simply couldn’t run, after the entries have been drawn, well then that would be different.

      • Gls

        No good,that would give him the race, I believe once the track takes entries they have to run it if one horse shows up. Except for weather etc.

    • Guest

      Trainers don’t know who else entered a race until the overnight comes out. And they get penalized for scratching.

    • Vendettaroad

      Could help Vitali as he would no longer need additives, and might win a race legitimately. Maybe.

    • Really?

      People tried to do this when Ramon won 6 in a row had a ton of positives and kept running. Horseman can be fined and also are then subject to a 14 day penalty for the horse after even a vet scratch (ridiculous but true). Parx has other problems that are worse than Vitali. Juan Vazquez a known violator is on around his 6th positive since being there when he was supposed to be on a 1 strike your out policy after being given stalls (how did that happen?). Mario Serey has 5-6 positives pending including one for a stakes win. Miguel Penaloza is suspended and running in someone else’s name for a drug violation and is likely to be suspended more since he was caught with needles when a vet saw blood coming from the jugular of a horse he had entered that day. It is worse than it’s ever been and will not change until management sticks to their guns on ejections and sets a precedent rather than caving when threatened with lawsuits. In fact maybe they should take action against the “decision maker” who is allowing these people in when they have resumes full of confirmed cheating.

  • JoeJoe

    Are you kidding me??? All of this fuss so he can enter a 20/1 shot in a $7500 claimer for Saturday? Painful..,

  • If the industry does not start getting rid of these guys for good we are going to get really good at golf.

  • greg

    The suspensions are written as follows: You’re suspended for 10 years OR until you appeal, whichever comes first

  • Quilla

    Wow. Lot of this dishonesty going around these days.

    Sad.

  • Guest

    You’ve got to be kidding me! Guess you can do anything with a lawyer these days!

  • Bryan Langlois

    You want a hearing in front of the Commission?? OK..next Meeting is the 28th in a few weeks. Take your hearing and lets get a decision. no deals….no continuances…no agreements. Simple hearing in front of the Commission and the matter is settled that day. PERIOD!!!

    • Alan Pincus

      You’re dreaming. I’ve tried for 25 years to get them to speed up their hearing system and it is slower than ever.

      • billy

        Why don’t you stand up for the horse insted of their corrupt trainer? Also knowing the system like you do I would assume I would like to ask you your thoughts on what changes should be made in pa horse racing

        • Bristling

          MONEY !!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Barrmorr

          The answer to your question is pretty simple. No horse has ever written this jerk a check.

        • Alan Pincus

          Mr. Vitali has never had a positive test for more than a Class 4 drug in a career of more than 35 years. Bute, banamine, ibuprofen. His record is not really bad at all. Why is there a lynch mob after him? As far as PA racing it is unconscionable to take 30 % out of a trifecta bet. Who are the real crooks? No licensee should be punished before he has a hearing. So speed up the hearing system so justice is done swiftly. Don’t call tests positive at the level of one picogram for therapeutic drugs or when the amount could not possibly affect a horse’s performance. It gives the impression that people are doing something wrong when they aren’t. When you have tolerance levels and withdrawal timeframes make sure they are based on actual science. Have the Commission hire people who actually know which end of the horse bites and which end kicks.

          • Michael Infurna

            It is truly amazing how many victims of sabotage and innocent people you represent!! Have you ever represented someone who actually committed a crime?

          • Alan Pincus

            There is a difference between a crime and a positive test. If someone witnesses a horse being administered an illegal drug there might be a crime. But a positive test merely indicates a violation of regulations. We hold the trainer responsible because someone must pay the penalty. And there are many ways that a horse can have a positive test without the trainer actually having done anything wrong. So we have to have hearings on the matter and its unfair to tar and feather someone before he receives that hearing.

          • Michael Infurna

            So if I administer a horse a substance that is violation of regulations and it helps mask a substance that is an illegal drug like steroids or EPO, that is not a crime? And if I know I gave these substances to this horse on a farm or on a van where no one is around, and I win $40,000 at the Windows when this horse runs off the screen, that is also not a crime? And what about poor owners like myself who run their horses clean against these drug enhanced horses and trainers that win at 40%, is that just part of the game and doing business as usual? Now I get it!!

          • Alan Pincus

            OK. The profile for the greatest trainers is this: They improve off you, you can’t improve off them and they have a high winning percentage. The profile for the cheating trainer is this: They improve off you, you can’t improve off them and they have a high winning percentage. How can you differentiate? Or would you bar them all without proving anything?

          • Richard C

            An attorney who wishes to litigate a case through a message board is a fool.

          • Kevin Callinan

            Check their records with two year olds. It’s not rocket science Alan. The profile of a cheating trainer is one who suddenly becomes ordinary with a maiden.

          • Rob B

            You make reference to young horses and maidens which aren’t always one in the same so I’d love to hear where this point is going?

          • Exhausted Race Fan

            positive tests

          • forestwildcat

            You suck

          • billy

            How many violations of the rules do you get until one has to pay for what they’ve done…you say his record is not that bad at all really compared to what regardless if it is a petty violation or not it is still a violation of the rules correct you ask why is there a lunch mob after him he used a beard trainer ran a horse with a slab fracture and yes there are no rules about that but it is your duty as a trainer to look after the well being of the animal and do what is in the animals best interest that’s what good trainers do do right by their horses dudes been at this 35 years and has how many violations how do you not learn in 35 years now I will ask you again why do you not stand up for the horses instead of their corrupt trainer being that you’ve represented all of them in this state I hope you bite your toungue off from all the b.s. you’ve stated over the years

          • Al McBean

            you enablers with the Pico grams milligrams hectogram parrallegram argument drive me crazy…if the amount of drugs these chemist “trainers” use have no effect on horses then why in the name of God do they use them at all and risk getting fined . they’re all cheats, every single last one of them.

          • Guest

            You misstate facts.

            3/28/15:
            The Department of Business & Professional Regulation, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, (Division) and MARCUS J. VITALI (Respondent) hereby stipulate and agree to the following terms and issuance of this Consent Order. ? 2. At all times material hereto Respondent trained and raced horses at Gulfstream Park and Calder Race Course, facilities operated by permitholders authorized to conduct pari-mutuel wagering in this state under Chapter 550, Florida Statutes?.CLASS 3 DRUG POSITIVES (DBPR Case Nos. 2015017898, 2015017906, 2015017982, & 2015018067)? CLASS 4 & 5 DRUG POSITIVES (DBPR Case Nos .. 2015018067, 2014014366, & 2014002754) ? FAILURE TO TIMELY REPORT DEATH (DBPR Case No. 2015013306)? 15. In each of the six drug cases addressed herein (8 positives total) (DBPR Case Nos. 2014002754, 2014014366, 2015017898, 2015017906, 2015017982, & 2015018067) the State Steward informed Respondent of the positive drug tests and offered him the opportunity to request split samples.

          • Alan Pincus

            You would have to tell me what medication you are talking about. Sometimes Class 4 drugs carry what is called a Class 3 penalty. It is a confusing system. Nevertheless in Florida in 2016 they radically changed their testing methodology causing almost 500 positives to be called. Many trainers are fighting this. Jamie Ness begins a 100 day suspension today for 11 of these so-called positives. Would you suggest he be barred from racing for all these positives received under unfair circumstances?

  • Peter Scarnati

    Can’t wait to see a count of how many horsemen actually vote for this guy. Even a single vote would be very telling of where the horsemen stand when it comes to the integrity of the sport.

  • Rob B

    They’re making an example of him. He has and should have been punished. But IMO a lifetime ban is a bit much. There are people training on that backside who do far worse there just not as sloppy getting caught. Nothing screams cheat like a first off the claim JN horse who runs for 12.5k who goes 21.4 44.3 in a 3 horse duel then rebreaks and pulls away by 5 in 109.2. He’s the fall guy for what seems to be a less than honest circuit. Especially in the non championship meet. I saw a horse the other day who ran 28 times last year down there. Thats once every 13 days for a full year straight. Saw a different horse make his 5th start of the year on Feb 8th or something and was non competitive in all of them. Not a peep.

    • johnnyknj

      You obviously don’t know either of the people you write of. Compared to Vitali, Jorge Navarro is Allen Jerkens, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and Mack Miller rolled into one.

      • Rob B

        His “vet” is better. Say what u want about Marcus but you can’t argue the guy got results. Not Navarro 30% results but results none the less. The guy had one owner that spent “real” money.

    • Bristling

      And NO ONE monitors it. Not the racing office not the stewards.

    • Barrmorr

      While other trainers may be worse or not is not the point. I wish they would catch them all but the fact that they don’t is no excuse to go easy on the ones they do catch. The welfare of the horses should be the paramount concern here. As far as I know no horse has ever knowingly taken an illegal drug or injected themselves.

      • Rob B

        Go easy on? The guy can’t even get a hearing. As far as horses injecting themselves do they or does anybody have proof he injected any of these horses? What if its a vindictive or incompetent vet? A punishment was needed here for sure but to toss his career in the trash over it is a bit much.

  • J

    I DON’ T KNOW THE MAN. BUT, EVERYONE DESERVES A SECOND CHANCE.
    HE IS PROBABLY BROKE & ALONE.

    • Barrmorr

      He brought all this on himself. What gall to then say I want to protect people from this happening to them. it doesn’t happen to trainers that don’t repeatedly drug horses. If he is broke and alone that is where he deserves to be. Protect the horses. The crooks, their lawyers and an inept and corrupt racing commission will take care of the cheaters.

  • Terri Z

    What a disgrace. This is why a national governance body for horse racing is desperately needed.
    Marcus Vitali acts like he has no shame or conscience. Horse racing doesn’t need people who could care less for the well being of the horse; it’s all about him. He shouldn’t be allowed to train a horse fly or a flea, yet alone a horse.

  • Farxxxx

    I will never bet Parx again. They give stalls out there to people who should be in Federal prison.

  • Barrmorr

    I am a fan of the sport and I never thought I would make a comment like this. The racetracks in Pennsylvania need to be closed. I realize that this would hurt innocent people and cost hard working backstretch employees (the honest ones) their jobs but it seems the state racing commission is more concerned about protecting crooks and their high priced lawyers. I imagine Parx itself could care less about racing as long as they have the casino but that is a topic for another day.

    • Racing Fan

      100% correct. Best to just close them down. slots have only brought more cheaters here and they’re given stalls by racetracks like candy.

  • Terri Z

    I think that part of the reason Vitali wants this position at Florida HBPA is to thumb his nose at Gulfstream officials. The office for Florida HBPA is at Gulfstream Park. He is banned on the grounds at Gulfstream and this is another way for him to attempt to get around this. I think that I will need to find a way to forward this article to P.J. Campo, Tim Ritvo, and Belinda Stronach to let them know Vitali’s intentions.

  • concernedflbreeder

    A man that misspells his own name is running for leadership of a multi-million dollar operation that controls the negotiations with racetracks? Seriously, I wonder who wrote that letter?

  • Barrmorr

    There are many horse racing analysts on TV and websites. The best in my opinion is Jeff Siegel who is now on XBTV after being featured on HRTV. It is interesting that whenever a horse from Parx is entered in a race at a different track his comment his whether or not you can trust Parx form. That says quite a bit about the integrity of the racing there.

  • Renzo A Bontempo

    O.K., all you bleeding hearts, Marcus trained my Horses, and like every other trainer, I told him I would rather loose 100 times fairly, rather than win once by cheating. When all this mess started, I wanted to know the numbers by trainer for last years championship meet, as to understand who the cheaters were, and did I have a problem trainer. Well, Marcus was not the worst percentage wise, and not even close with the degree of violation. Now, having said that, I challenge all of you to acquire the data from Ray Paulick and make up your own minds. When your analysis is done, from the same information I received for the time frame of this debacle (last championship meet), and YOU DO NOT start screaming for everybody’s head, you are nothing but a bunch of Hypocrites and Phonies.

    • Exhausted Race Fan

      Not exactly true. Most of us would like their head as well. This one has attention because of his blatant disregard once he was finally caught. The sport needs to do exactly what you say and start screaming for everyone to be held accountable. This is an easy start.

    • Kevin Callinan

      You’ve used Vitali, Hunter and now Navarro and you’re going to lecture us. LOL

      • Renzo A Bontempo

        Kevin,Kevin,Kevin, I think you are part of the problem and not part of the solution.You see I was told that Hunter was taking over for Vitali, and Hunter actually showed up when my Horses ran. Secondly, I have NEVER used Navarro, nor am I using him now. I did claim a horse Reagan’s Odyssey which I owned for the majority of last year and wanted back, in order to save her from Navarro. So please stop spreading false rumors, because you are acting the FOOL. Yes, I will lecture and debate you all day because you do not have the facts. Blindly, we are aiming a shotgun at the mouse, while the RATS continue to steal the Cheese. Other Cheaters will never be addressed, as the continue to invoke injunctions and Stays. If ever suspensions are handed down, it will be when those folks are out of town, and will not suffer any consequences. If Vitali had been smart, he would have done exactly what those more guilty than he are doing right now. Wake up.

        • Kevin Callinan

          My mistake, that would be quite a trio.

  • Bristling

    Looks like he needs to add the state vet to that suit

    • Bristling

      Get on the case Pincus. File the paper work !!!!!!!!!

  • youcantmakeitup

    Why do they even suspend trainers anyway. They just get a program trainer. I guess nobody has noticed that Jamie Ness is doing a few months suspension but all is well. His wife is saddling the horses while he is on vacation. Where`s the punishment?

  • Vendettaroad

    McCarron who is crusading for honest and clean (eliminate drugs) Thoroughbred Racing reported that VITALI had 47 charges for suspicious or bad tests (Drugging) while training in Florida.
    Is there any doubt why he surrendered his Florida License and high tailed it to a different racing district. He apparently has no shame or dignity!
    PETA needs to watch and investigate his seemingly unethical treatment of horses in his care.

  • Renzo A Bontempo

    47 Violations, over what period of time? A sophistic statement indeed ( true, but meant to deceive ) Last years Championship meet caused problem, although Vitali was not the worst percentage wise nor worst for level of violation. Why are others more guilty still given Stalls and not suspended? Let’s be fair and apply equal justice. No scapegoating.

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