The Kentucky State Racing Commission unanimously denied an owner's license today to Michael Blake, the disputed owner of Kentucky Derby eligible Johnlee n' Harold, after Blake refused to take a lie detector test to prove that he is not a front man for boxing promoter Ross Fields.
The action, which Blake said he would not appeal, effectively prohibits the horse from running in the Kentucky Derby on May 2.
It has been reported that Johnlee n' Harold's real owner is boxing promoter Ross Fields, alias Harold J. Smith. In Los Angeles today. Fields pleaded innocent at his arraignment on charges of giving false information on a passport application. He remained free on a $355,000 bond.
Fields is accused in a civil suit by Wells Fargo Bank of being part of a $21.3 embezzlement from the bank. No indictments have been handed up in that investigation, however.
Blake, 25, said he would keep his colt in California and train for the Preakness " if the Maryland board will let me come there."
The 3-year-old colt has won three of his five starts and was second in the Santa Anita Derby on April 12.
Normally a formality for out-of-state owners entering the Derby, Blake's license application was challenged by senior state steward Keene Daingerfield, who said the horse was actually owned by Fields.
In other developments concerning Fields today in Los Angeles, Alice Vicki Darrow, his fugitive wife, wanted by North Carolina authorities on bad check charges, surrendered to the FBI, and Fields' attorney, Jennifer King, in pleading innocent to charges of giving false testimony to a grand jury, said she has been using an assumed name for the past decade.
Federal Judge Manuel Real gave Fields permission to attend the burial of former heavyweight champion Joe Louis Tuesday at Arlington, Va. The judge also gave Fields permission to go to New York and Phoenix, but said Fields' bond would be forfeited if he did not check in with authorities daily in those cities.
The Kentucky board's interest in the horse's ownership stemmed from a February investigation by the California State Racing Board into the horse's ownership. That inquiry ended in March when the board accepted an administrative law judge's ruling that Fields had no interest in the horse.
Daingerfield said that although Blake had a foal certificate issued in his name, many of the colt's expenses had been paid by Fields.
Blake's attorney, Steve Schwartz, said Blake worked for Fields as an employe of Muhammad Ali Professional Sports (MAPS) for about two years. Blake said he borrowed part of the $32,000 purchase price of the colt from Fields when he bought the horse last May. He said he repaid Fields that debt and other money he had borrowed by Jan. 24.