The owner of Rich Strike is suing the owners and trainer of Hot Rod Charlie to recoup alleged losses in purse winnings and horse value.

Rick Dawson, the owner of Rich Strike, claims that Hot Rod Charlie was wearing illegal toe grabs when it won the Oct. 1, 2022, Grade 2 Lukas Classic by a head over Rich Strike. Subsequent investigations by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney — on behalf of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) — determined that Hot Rod Charlie was shod legally. HISA unanimously accepted the recommendations from the law firm and dismissed the claim.

In his lawsuit against Hot Rod Charlie’s owners and trainer, Dawson seeks $206,320 in purse money, the value of the race trophy and the “impact of Rich Strike’s syndicate value.” Hot Rod Charlie’s owners are Gainesway Thoroughbreds, Greg Helm’s Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing and Strauss Brothers Racing. The horse’s trainer is Doug O’Neill. Dawson told Horse Racing Nation that he doesn’t intend to seek damages against KHRC or HISA.

“In order to sue, you have to show that you’ve been damaged,” Dawson told Horse Racing Nation. “Where we’ve been damaged would obviously be the differences in purse money and the winning of a Grade 2, which could affect the value of the horse.”

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act regulates horseshoes in Rule 2276. It states:

“(a) Except for full rims 2 millimeters or less from the ground surface of the Horseshoe, traction devices are prohibited on forelimb and hindlimb Horseshoes during racing and training on dirt or synthetic racing tracks.

“(b) Traction devices are prohibited on forelimb and hindlimb Horseshoes during training and racing on the turf.

“(c) Traction devices include but are not limited to rims, toe grabs, bends, jar calks and stickers.”

The Authority announced July 29, just days before Rule 2276 was to take effect Aug. 1, that it “shall not enforce traction rules for horses racing on dirt surfaces that are shod on hindlimbs with traction devices in the form of either a full outer rim shoe (up to 4 mm in height) or a toe grab (up to 4 mm in height).”

The allegations stemmed from photographs by EquiSport Photos that Dawson and Eric Reed, Rich Strike’s trainer, believed to be evidence that Hot Rod Charlie was wearing horseshoes with toe grabs.

KHRC stewards examining photographs of Hot Rod Charlie during the racing asked farrier Dean Balut why it appeared the horse’s left foot had toe grabs on race day but was not wearing them after in the barn.

“That foot and the way that appears to look like a toe grab, I can’t comment on that,” he told stewards in an interview obtained by Horse Racing Nation’s Freedom of Information Act request. “That just seems like a bad angle or some sort of shadow. The picture … where they have the foot front from the front view, if you take a look at the foot or the shoe itself, you’ll see almost an upside-down, smile shape. His shoes were so worn because they were 30 days and he paws a little bit, … that he possibly could have worn all the way back that the toe that’s inserted inside [the shoe] could have been showing. The shoe was regulation. There was no traction device, no toe grab below the shoe.”

Balut’s explanation seemed to correspond with the stewards’ inspection.

“We’ve examined the shoe on the horse’s foot since then and that makes sense,” a steward said in response.

Balut shod Hot Rod Charlie on Aug. 30 with a size 6 Kerckhaert Tradition XT with the toe grab ground to flush with the shoe, he told stewards.

“Kerckhaert did not have a shoe that was HISA compliant [before Aug. 30],” Balut said in a video statement to KHRC investigators. “What we did was ground the shoe, the toe grab, prior to coming to Kentucky to put the shoes on Charlie. So, those shoes were completely flush at the toe with no toe grabs.”

The review conducted by Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Maloney concurred with the stewards’ findings.

“We conducted a tactile examination of the shoes and felt no palpable traction device on the shoes,” according to the enforcement counsel. “As Hot Rod Charlie’s shoes had been sufficiently ground down, enforcement counsel could not feel the presence of any attachment to the horseshoes.”