Racing Officials Fine Churchill For Derby Offense

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Racing officials in Kentucky fined
Churchill Downs Inc. on Monday for a rules violation at the
starting gate of last month's Kentucky Derby.

The $15,000 penalty levied against the track by the Kentucky
Horse Racing Authority involves a track worker Churchill hired to
load Pyro into the starting gate. Pyro, trained by Steve Asmussen,
finished eighth in the race.

Because the job of loading temperamental racehorses into the
gate is often a sensitive task, Kentucky's racing regulations have
long held that track officials - not trainers or jockeys - make the

However, Asmussen had requested that assistant starter, Clinton
Beck, be used, and he got his wish, which racing officials
determined in their investigation violated the rules.

"The authority is charged with maintaining the integrity of
horse racing in Kentucky," KHRA executive director Lisa Underwood
said. "We are satisfied the running of Kentucky Derby 134 was not
impacted by the assignment of the assistant starter to this
particular horse."

Under an agreement with Churchill Downs Inc., the track agreed
to the penalty but didn't admit wrongdoing.

"We were eager to cooperate in the review and to swiftly
address the KHRA's concerns regarding these procedures," said
Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs racetrack and executive
vice president of Churchill Downs Inc. "We believe this agreement
is an acceptable resolution for both the KHRA and Churchill

Underwood said multiple people had a role in the rules
violation, but declined to name them. She said the investigation is
ongoing and that Asmussen will testify at a future hearing. Calls
to Asmussen weren't immediately returned Monday.

Connie Whitfield, the racing authority's vice chair, said the
action was less about correcting a serious wrong at the Derby but
more intended to send a message.

"Nobody knows who is assigned until the last minute,"
Whitfield said. "It's a way of trying to avoid any bad behavior.
We're trying to have the sport look as clean as possible."

KHRA staff reviewed video of Pyro being loaded and found no
evidence of wrongdoing by Beck, Underwood said.

Also Monday, Whitfield, who chairs a KHRA panel on equine drug
rules, said there could be a recommendation as soon as August on
whether the authority should approve a steroid ban. Kentucky has
not approved steroid regulations, as 10 other states have done, but
is under growing pressure to do so.

On Thursday, a federal commerce subcommittee will interview key
players in the sport about steroids, equine safety and other
issues. Whitfield's husband, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, is
the top Republican on the subcommittee.

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