After the Office of Race Commissioner granted a jockey’s license to Terry Houghton, the veteran rider expressed his relief to once again be racing in his native state at the new Pinnacle Race Course near Detroit.
“I grew up in Hazel Park, Mich. which isn’t far from here, and my mom and dad’s home is still there,” said Houghton of Pinnacle, where he won four races during the track’s first two days of operation, including the July 18 Lansing Stakes. “I have a lot of friends I went to school with, and most of these people that have horses (at Pinnacle) I’ve ridden for since I’ve started riding, so it’s good to be back home.”
Houghton is one of several jockeys that had been under investigation the last year and a half by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau regarding allegations of race fixing at Great Lakes Downs in Western Michigan in 2006. The contentions were made after suspiciously large wagers were cashed by bettors at Delaware Park.
“At this time, we have not found him to be guilty of any race fixing,” said Liana Bennett of the ORC, which regulates horse racing in Michigan. “We have not officially closed the case, though; we have just made the case inactive.”
Bennett said the ORC could still revoke Houghton’s license in the future if any new evidence is discovered regarding the 2006 incident. None of the other jockeys under investigation have applied for licenses in Michigan, though Bennett said the ORC still has open cases on them.
“All I can say is that the investigation continues,” said Frank Fabian, president of the TRPB. “The matter is being conducted by the FBI in Detroit, and the TRPB continues to cooperate with their requests,” he added, noting that he didn’t know a timeline for when the investigation might be complete.
Last year, Houghton was banned at Turfway Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and all the racetracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc. because of the race fixing accusations.
Houghton, who won two riding titles at Hawthorne Park and led the jockey’s standings at Great Lakes Downs three times, achieved a milestone of 4,000 wins last August at Canterbury Park.
The jockey is still banned at some of the Churchill Downs Inc. tracks, including Arlington Park in Illinois. He and attorney Art Engelland filed a $10-million lawsuit in punitive or exemplary damages (plus attorney fees and court costs) against Arlington last year, but Houghton said it could still be another year before a court date is set.
Currently licensed to ride in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Hawthorne Park in Illinois, Houghton was also recently approved to ride at Ellis Park in Kentucky. He does not yet know when or if his ban from Tampa Bay Downs will be lifted. Calls made to Peter Berube, general manager at Tampa Bay Downs were not returned July 22.
“Certain race tracks that are privately owned are allowed to ban anybody they don’t want on their backside,” said Houghton of the Florida track. “They don’t have to have a reason at all, which is a shame because this is what we do for a living.
"Maybe all this will open up some eyes and we’ll be able to change some things, because it’s wrong. There are no rulings or charges against us, but they’re able to just stop you from being able to make a living. Your constitutional rights are completely violated, there’s no due process—it’s crazy.”