HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, March 15, 2022 – As if jockey performances in races don’t cause enough good trouble, even when no empirical evidence of wrongdoing exists, adjudication by officials charged with safeguarding the interests of horsemen and horseplayers often exacerbates a problem.
Late last year, Irad Ortiz Jr. received a 30-day suspension in New York for two separate incidents for what can best be described as rough race-riding. One of those incidents, which occurred in the Remsen Stakes, did not result in a disqualification. Many correctly believed it should have.
Ultimately, Ortiz paid the price via the 30-day ban. But then so did the owner, trainer, and bettors of Zandon pay a price. They were not duly compensated despite an incident that, according to the official chart, “the winner’s rider attempt to intimidate him late then bumped [Zandon] approaching the wire.”
Last week, Paco Lopez received a 14-day suspension from the Gulfstream Park stewards for “careless riding” aboard In Due Time in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and placed him on probation for the balance of the championship meet.
Routinely, careless riding results in a seven-day suspension, sometimes even a three-day day, so this must have been quite the incident. The stewards posted an inquiry but dismissed the review relatively quickly, allowing the original order of finish to stand as is.
Sending messages to jockeys is a good thing, especially when that rider has a reputation for pushing the boundaries of race-riding too far. Yet, not only was there no demotion of In Due Time from second position but no time was determined as to when Lopez would serve his suspension.
This suggests an over-punish, over-compensate scenario, worsened by a simultaneous announcement that “to better serve the stewards and customers, additional cameras would be added…to provide better views of each race on dirt, turf and Tapeta.”
Lopez’s ride drew harsh criticism on racing twitter. We took the position that after extensive video reviews, both pan and head-on, that evidence of wrong-doing was inconclusive. Clearly something happened, but what?
What is known is that two horses fell, miraculously without serious injury to the horses and minor injuries to the riders, but the inquiry was aborted fairly ,quickly and with no jockey objections, the results were made official.
This suggests strongly that views of the incident were not good enough upon which to base a judgment as to the official order, resulting in no justice for victimized rivals and bettors. The Gulfstream stewards have yet to explain the cause of the accident.
The latest jockey incident involved the extremely curious handling from Jose Lezcano aboard Foxtail in which his mount finished second after the rider repeatedly looked over his left shoulder at a rival he vanquished, https://twitter.com/i/status/1500610946129084418.
Aqueduct stewards took no action against Lezcano after meeting with him five days later in a formal hearing. The matter remains “under ongoing review.” whatever that means. Again, racing twitter demanded answers, again officials failed to act with clarity.
What was and is still lacking is an explanation as to why Lezcano was overly concerned with an apparently beaten rival. If he weren’t so self-distracted, he might have been better able to concentrate on the winner, Indian Bella, rushing up on his right side.
This is racing’s latest example of its woeful lack of transparency and accountability for its, administrators who wield power except apparently for those times it’s needed of them. In August of 1986, the Saratoga stewards wrongfully disqualified the filly Allumeuse.
This was a simple case of mistaken identity for which all three stewards either lost their jobs or were re-assigned. Here is what happened in the Lezcano matter, according to the official chart:
“Foxtail, showed in front early then was taken under a tight hold and relinquished the advantage, stalked outside the leading duo under stout restraint, engaged those leaders while still in hand in the four path around the turn, had the rider take a peek behind him at the five-sixteenths, took the advantage while the rider took five more looks to the inside into upper stretch, was asked while surprised by the presence of the winner to her outside at the three-sixteenths then lost the advantage, kept on under a drive while fighting inside that foe in the final furlong and just missed while well clear for the place.”
Six days from today, jockey Mychel Sanchez 60-day suspension, ordered by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission, for betting will end. Sanchez placed over 100 wagers on an Advance Deposit Wagering account he opened in December, reportedly betting against himself on seven occasions.
His lawyer was quoted in several reports that while Sanchez deserves punishment for breaking the rules against betting, it was due to his fight with depression, not because of anything nefarious. “He did something crazy only his psychiatrist can explain.”
HorseRaceInsider wishes the best for Sanchez in his recovery but depression doesn’t absolve jockeys from betting, especially on those occasions when a rider bets against himself.
Sanchez is credited for winning two of the seven races in which he bet against himself, very expensive saver wagers as it turns out. One of the races in which he bet against himself occurred at Laurel Park where he bet on a winning favorite. His 13-1 chance set the pace before finishing last.
The Maryland Racing Commission stated it is satisfied with the punishment doled out in Pennsylvania and will take no further action, considering the matter closed. Sanchez also rode in New York during this period in but no decision as to his status there has been issued.
Alas, not all the news involving jockeys has been bad. The New York State Gaming Commission proposed to eliminate a controversial pari-mutuel restriction that requires married jockeys competing in the same race for different interests be coupled parimutuelly.
The motion likely has more to do with economics than with equal rights, however. In the first quarter of 2021, husband and wife Trevor McCarthy and Katie Davis had separate mounts on 41 occasions and were coupled by rule. Handle loss was estimated at over $4-million.
The proposed regulatory change will require final approval following a period of public commentary.
Meanwhile, two prominent jockeys, Flavien Prat and Umberto Rispoli, will soon move their tack from Southern California to New York following the April 9 Santa Anita Derby, good news for the Empire State, the Golden State not so much.