Ruling gives Funkhouser a 'total victory' in Charles Town

October 17, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Prominent local racehorse owner Randy Funkhouser is headed back to the track.

That was the announcement by one of Funkhouser's lawyers Tuesday after a hearing examiner ruled that there was no proof that Funkhouser intended to deceive the West Virginia Racing Commission when the commission decided to remove racehorse Forest Park from a July 4 race at Charles Town Races & Slots.

Harry Waddell, a Martinsburg, W.Va., attorney who helped defend Funkhouser during a nearly 12-hour hearing on the case Monday at the Charles Town Library, said the Funkhouser party was "very pleased" with the ruling.

"He intends to be racing on Oct. 20," said Waddell, referring to the popular West Virginia Breeders Classics races at Charles Town Races & Slots.


Martinsburg attorney David Hammer also defended Funkhouser, who is listed as vice president of the board of directors for West Virginia Breeders Classic Ltd.

"Total victory for Mr. Funkhouser," Hammer said in an e-mail message Tuesday afternoon.

"It's a little different from what's been printed all along," said Funkhouser, referring to newspaper accounts of the controversy.

Funkhouser said the concerns he raised about Forest Park competing in the July 4 race are no different than the way he has worked on other issues at the track.

"Somehow this erupts into what it became," said Funkhouser, who described the string of events as "politically motivated and bogus."

Hearing examiner Oscar Bean ruled that the suspension of Funkhouser's occupational permit at the track is "vacated" and that Funkhouser will be afforded all the rights associated with such a permit, including being allowed to race Saturday.

It was alleged that Funkhouser resorted to manipulation when Forest Park was removed from the Charles Town Dash Invitational, which was won by Funkhouser's horse Confucius Say.

Funkhouser participated in a telephone meeting with state Racing Commission and track officials the day before the race to discuss concerns about Forest Park being able to run in the race.

Despite the allegations against Funkhouser, Bean pointed to testimony during Monday's hearing in which Joseph Cuomo, the commission's director of racing, said Funkhouser acted appropriately during the July 3 telephone meeting.

Also, Cuomo testified that Funkhouser's comments "were given no more, no less weight than his rule-based arguments themselves merited," Bean wrote in his ruling.

Forest Park, owned by homebuilder Dan Ryan, was removed from a race at Delaware Park on June 30 due to a sore foot and it was undisputed that the five-day disqualification that resulted from the "scratch" of the horse would have prohibited Forest Park from running in the July 4 race, Bean wrote.

The racing commission's decision July 3 to remove Forest Park from the Charles Town race was within the power of the commission and was based upon the rules of racing and "not, in any way, upon the testimony of Mr. Funkhouser or his alleged enhanced credibility," Bean ruled.

Charles Town Races & Slots' board of racing stewards, who enforce state racing laws, suspended Funkhouser's occupational permit at the track following a complaint from members of the local Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association that Funkhouser allegedly improperly influenced the racing commission.

After the suspension, Funkhouser filed for injunctive relief in Kanawha County Circuit Court, and Judge Charles E. King Jr. directed Monday's hearing to be held to consider the issue.

During Monday's hearing, Danny Wright, the track's chief racing steward, said he believed Funkhouser committed "the cardinal since of sportsmanship" and resorted to manipulation when Forest Park was removed from the July 4 race.

Under cross-examination of Wright, Hammer pointed out that people with a horse in a race and with a financial interest in a race are the ones who are supposed to protest entries of horses in races.

Funkhouser's win in the July 4 race gave him and others about $80,000 in winnings, officials said.

The eight races in Saturday's Breeders Classics have a total purse of $1.45 million.

Despite Bean's ruling, Ken Lowe, a member of the HBPA's board of directors, said Tuesday he is still upset that the HBPA was not consulted about the move to remove Forest Park from the July 4 race or allowed to vote on it.

Lowe said he was told by many people that Forest Park was eligible to run.

"The facts are the facts. What's right is right. What's wrong is wrong," Lowe said.

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