A California judge has given beleaguered Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer a reprieve, temporarily halting the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club from banning him.

Back in the saddle? Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will be returning to Del Mar after a California Superior Court ruled in his favor. (Image: Andy Lyons/Getty)

San Diego Superior Court judge Ronald F. Frazier issued the injunction on Friday, ruling that Hollendorfer must be allowed to stable his horses and train at Del Mar while the courts adjudicate the banishment from Del Mar.

The ruling also includes California’s 22nd Agricultural District, the entity operating the San Diego County Fairgrounds. California’s 22nd is the official owner of the land upon which the historic Thoroughbred track sits.

DMTC barred the Hall of Fame trainer after four of his equine trainees suffered injuries at Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles and thus had to be euthanized. Santa Anita operators The Stronach Group declared that neither he nor any horse he trains could remain at any TSG track.

That includes tracks in Maryland and Florida in addition to Golden Gate Fields. The Northern California track is the scene of two other equine deaths of horses under Hollendorfer’s care.

Del Mar cited the public relations threat presented by allowing Hollendorfer to race there as their grounds for barring the trainer.

The ruling granted a request for an injunction from Hollendorfer and co-plaintiff the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT), with modification. Hollendorfer and the CTT went to court last week seeking to have the conditioner reinstated at Del Mar. The CTT is the trade organization representing Hollendorfer and most other California trainers.

Del Mar Loses in Court

DMTC counsel Chris Jaczko made a last ditch attempt to convince Judge Frazier not to make Thursday’s preliminary ruling official. But Frazier, undeterred after a 40-minute hearing Friday, made his tentative decision final.

Frazier additionally mandated a status conference on Oct. 25. Del Mar’s current meeting ends Sept. 2, Labor Day. It also conducts a brief fall race meet, Nov. 11 through Dec. 3.  

The ruling means that both sides will now arbitrate the decision to bar the 73-year-old horseman from racing at the seaside oval. The crux of Hollendorfer and the CTT’s argument is that the issue requires arbitration because the contract between the horsemen and Del Mar stipulates it.

From reporting by the Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman:

“I’m not saying you don’t have the right to do what you did,” Frazier said to Jaczko during the hearing. “I’m saying you have to have an arbitrator decide that.”

Santa Anita Status Unresolved

According to the ruling, Del Mar is “enjoined from denying Mr. Hollendorfer’s stall application, from refusing Mr. Hollendorfer’s entry to the Del Mar races, and from preventing Mr. Hollendorfer’s access to the fairgrounds as necessary to observe, saddle and race his horses until fair procedure can be completed, in the form of arbitration as per the Race Meet Agreement.”

Hollendorfer was in attendance at the Friday hearing, and said afterwards he was “very gratified the judge ruled in our favor.” He said he plans to be at Del Mar for the first time this season on Sunday. He has a string of horses currently at Los Alamitos. That’s the Orange County track, where he trains after Santa Anita banishment.

His attorney Drew Couto says, regarding his cilent’s status with Santa Anita, “One step at a time, but they’re certainly on our radar.”

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is also continuing to bar the trainer, a winner of more than 7,600 race.

Hollendorfer has no rulings against him by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) or any other racing jurisdiction.

Racetracks generally operate as private entities. Legal opinions usually uphold a track’s ability to bar anyone from the premises for any reason. However, in this instance, according to Frazier, the lack of the arbitration hearing, for now, is forcing Del Mar to allow Hollendorfer to stable and race. That’s likely to begin sometime next week.

To read Frazier’s complete ruling click here.