Citing concerns over the safety of horses and jockeys, Suffolk Downs will not permit a 76-year-old jockey to compete at the racetrack in Boston, Mass.
Frank Amonte Sr., 76, who is licensed by the state as a trainer and jockey, has filed an age discrimination complaint against the operator of Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, which operates the track. In the complaint, which is scheduled to be heard by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in November, Amonte said Suffolk Downs has refused to permit him to ride due to an incident that occurred at the track in 2011.
While the complaint does not provide details of the incident, Amonte said: "Like all professional jockeys, I have on occasion been 'thrown' from my horse during a race; like all professional jockeys, I have on occasion chosen to 'strategically dismount' from my horse for my safety, the safety of other riders, and the safety of the horse on which I was riding; the decision to 'strategically dismount' is highly discretionary, and is best made by the jockey riding the mount."
In a statement, Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said: "Mr. Amonte continues to be welcome as an owner and as a trainer at Suffolk Downs. There are inherent dangers in any racing environment, and one of our major responsibilities is to minimize those for all race participants. After careful consideration and a thorough review of his recent riding record, we determined that in the interest of safety for both the horses and jockeys, including Mr. Amonte, we would not permit him to ride here."
According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Amonte had two seconds and two third-place finishes from nine mounts in 2011. Overall, he has ridden the winners of 106 races, with 369 placings, in 1,734 career mounts. Amonte's last win came at the Northampton fair meet in 2005, a feat that made him the oldest rider to win a race in the U.S.
As a trainer, Armonte has saddled eight winners and 37 horses that have placed from 212 starters since 1995, according to TJIS.
In his complaint, Amonte said he is "in excellent physical condition" and has been "medically certified to race by my doctor."
Armonte noted that other jockeys and trainers have signed "a petition stating that they would welcome my presence in future races as they did not consider me to be a danger to myself or others." He said in the complaint: "It was my fervent desire to become the oldest person to ever win a professional horse race. I was hoping to gain mention the Guiness Book of World Records."