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.
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