Trainer Jeff Mullins was granted a stay by a San Diego Superior Court on Thursday, allowing him to avoid thestart of 70-day suspension for a medication violation that was scheduled to begin on Wednesday until further hearings are conducted.
The stay, issued by Superior Court judge Lisa Foster, will allow Mullins to continue operating his Hollywood Park stable.
Mullins, 48, sought the stay, citing that the California Horse Racing Board had violated his due-process rights and that his arguments deserved to be heard in a court hearing. He also alleged that the board targeted his stable in postrace testing programs.
Mullins faced a suspension for a medication violation in which one of Mullins's runners at Del Mar in 2006 tested positive for the prohibited painkiller mepivacaine.
Mullins was suspended for 90 days by the racing board and served 20 days of the penalty in early 2008, with the other 70 days stayed provided he did not have any further violations for medications in Classes 1, 2, or 3 during a one-year period. During that probationary period, Mullins had a horse test in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide at Del Mar in August 2008.
Mullins requested a hearing on the 70-day penalty, a case heard by hearing officer Steffan Imhoff, who later recommended to the racing board that the penalty be reduced to 40 days.
Last December, the racing board rejected Imhoff's proposal, saying at the time that it would issue a decision of its own. The board had the option of accepting, rejecting or modifying Imhoff's proposed decision, and reached that decision late last month. The board, in an executive session in late April, ordered that Mullins serve the entire 70-day balance of the suspension.
In a statement released by his publicist, Mullins said, in part, "I have done nothing wrong and have waited years for my day in court to prove my innocence."
The racing board's executive director, Kirk Breed, declined to comment on Thursday's ruling. Racing board counsel Robert Miller was not available for comment, according to racing board officials.
Mullins has won 11 training titles in Southern California tracks, most recently at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting in 2007. He won three consecutive runnings of the Santa Anita Derby from 2003 to 2005 with Buddy Gil, Castledale, and Buzzards Bay, and was the trainer of I Want Revenge when that horse was scratched from the 2009 Kentucky Derby on the morning of the race because of injury.