There are many adjectives that can be applied to trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr., recently back from a 10-year suspension to saddle White Abarrio, a top contender in Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita.
“Colorful” is a good place to start. The conditioner who addresses everyone as “Babe” is the son of respected trainer Rick Dutrow, Sr. and the brother of Anthony, who recently notched his 2,000th training victory. Dutrow’s father and brother were cut from the “old school” of classic Maryland horsemen.
Rick Dutrow, Jr. is a breed apart. He relished the spotlight, carried himself with a cocky swagger while playing fast and loose with the rules. He ultimately paid the price.
Which brings us to the next descriptor: “Controversial.” That adjective barely scratches the surface. Dutrow regained his trainer’s license in February after the 10-year ban for multiple medication violations.
The New York racing authorities had run out of patience with Dutrow and his string of rules violations. The suspension was long, severe, and a stunning fall from grace for one of the sport’s most powerful trainers.
The sport underwent profound changes during Dutrow’s decade-long sabbatical. Leading trainers like Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis are now serving jail time for distributing and administering illegal drugs to racehorses. The federal government stepped in to supervise the sport through the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA). All trainers now find themselves under an intense regulatory microscope.
Which brings us to the final label: “Successful.” Dutrow has always had the knack of getting horses to perform at top levels. He captured two-thirds of the 2008 Triple Crown when Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Preakness (G1) before a last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Starting over with a handful of horses in the spring, Dutrow notched his first winner in over a decade in May at Belmont Park. In very short order, he’s back at the Breeders’ Cup with a live prospect in the richest of the season-ending championships.
Dutrow being Dutrow, his pathway back to the Breeders’ Cup (where he has already saddled three winners including Saint Liam in the 2005 Classic) was full of twists and turns. The horse, initially trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., landed in Dutrow’s barn after Joseph was suspended by Churchill Downs when two of his horses at the track died suddenly.
White Abarrio burst on the national scene last year with his wins for Joseph in the Holy Bull (G3) and the Florida Derby (G1). From there it was on to Churchill Downs for the Derby (G1) where he ran 16th.
The gray 4-year-old has run twice for Dutrow, both in Grade 1 stakes. He was third in his Dutrow debut, the Met Mile in June before romping to a 6 ¼-length victory in the Whitney at Saratoga in a 10-1 upset.
The Whitney was a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race, earning the victor a spot in the Classic, and putting Dutrow back in the big time.
“We’re heading to the Breeders’ Cup with this horse the right way and that is a thrill,” Dutrow said after the Whitney.
The Whitney was Dutrow’s first Grade 1 since the suspension and it came on his 62nd birthday as added icing on his comeback cake. One of the sport’s most colorful, controversial, and successful trainers is now back at the Breeders’ Cup.
Dutrow’s brother and assistant, Chip, has been overseeing White Abarrio at Santa Anita. He knows Rick well.
“My brother thinks he’s got the best horse in the world. He’s going to tell you like it is when he’s got a good one and he’s got a good one,’’ Chip Dutrow said Wednesday at Santa Anita after the 4-year-old colt returned from a morning gallop. “If you talk to him, he’s got the horse. You’ve got to deal with this guy.’’
Dutrow might be primed for the feast after the 10-year famine.
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|Richard E. Dutrow, Jr.
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The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.