By Julie Sarno
"I'm the luckiest guy in the world," horse lawyer Bing I. Bush Jr. said. "I get to blend passions of mine: horses and law."
Bush's law offices are on Camino del Mar, right in the heart of Del Mar. Having his offices near the racetrack is more than a happy coincidence. Bush practices law dealing with horse or equine matters. On top of that, his father was named for Bing Crosby, the entertainer and movie star who co-founded the racetrack in 1937 with actor Pat O'Brien and local businessman William Quigley.
The younger Bush was born in Covington, Ky., just north of the Bluegrass Country surrounding Lexington, where most of the major horse farms are located.
"As a kid, I grew up watching westerns and loving horses," said the attorney, who is in his late 40s.
"Dad had a client who could not pay him, but he had land. So when I was eight, we all got horses and we boarded them there."
In addition to his Del Mar headquarters, Bush maintains Kentucky offices at the top of the Lexington Financial Center, which he shares with attorney Richard Getty. Currently, his caseload is heavier locally, he said. In Lexington, there are many equine law attorneys, but here, Bush's specialty is a rarity.
While in his first year of law school at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Bush traveled to Southern California to visit his sister, who was working for the La Jolla Light at the time. His sister, Marcel Bush Radomile, lives in La Jolla and also is an attorney.
Bush finished law school in Kentucky and moved to California in 1987. He passed the California bar exam and, later, passed the Kentucky bar. At first, he worked for a San Diego law firm, and then opened his own practice in 1998.
"There are many different spokes in the wheel of equine law," said Bush, who exercised racehorses at Keeneland, a racetrack in Lexington, during his college years. "I put together partnerships and limited liability companies, manage equine business affairs, craft purchase agreements, handle litigation disputes between owners in partnership, handle estate issues regarding horse ownership, and represent jockeys in their appeals before the California Horse Racing Board."
Bush also manages the equine business affairs for Sheikh Rashid Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum of Dubai, a major racehorse owner and breeder. The sheikh is the eldest son of the ruler of Dubai. His 4-year-old filly Game Face recently won the Princess Rooney Handicap in Florida, which gives her an automatic starting spot in the Sentient Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 6 at Santa Anita.
Jockeys hire Bush to represent them when they receive suspensions from the stewards - the licensed racing officials whose job basically is to keep the racetrack safe and ensure that the sport is fair and honest.
They watch all races and, when they note a horse interfering with another horse or bumping another horse, they post the flashing "Inquiry" sign on the large infield display board or Tote, short for Totalisator, board where betting odds are displayed. Then they review videotapes of the race in question. They consider the severity of the infraction and issue a suspension referred to as "days" to the jockey.
According to Bush, he represents a majority of the jockeys locally. It is common for jockeys to hire an attorney to file an appeal, allowing the rider the opportunity to have a full hearing before a suspension is imposed. The filing of the appeal, which has to be done in Sacramento within 72 hours of the ruling, gives the jockey a stay of suspension and he (or she) may continue riding pending the outcome of the hearing.
Bush noted that the safety of the racetrack has improved since Polytrack was installed at Del Mar.
"On Polytrack, you have an even surface," he said. "No path is better than another. Jockeys do not have to vie for position as much as on dirt."
The attorney, who lives in a condominium overlooking the racetrack, called racing season "my favorite time of the year. I'm so close to the track, I hear the horses whinny at night."
Bush will be married this summer in La Jolla to Julie Ashcraft. He has two children, Ben, 14, and, in Lexington, daughter Rylea, 6 1/2.