Manoel Cruz, currently the leading rider at the current Tropical at Calder meet and a top South Florida rider for the past three years, was barred from riding at Calder for the remainder of the meet which ends Jan. 2.
The decision was rendered following the third race on Dec. 21 – a Cruz victory aboard El Quixote – and was a result of Cruz having received four separate suspensions for reckless riding by the Calder stewards over a six week period beginning on Nov. 3.
Cruz appealed each ruling and was therefore granted stays of serving the suspensions, allowing him to remain atop the jockey standings. The final stay was accorded by the State of Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering after the stewards declined to allow a fourth delay.
"It was important to keep our facility, riders and horses protected as best possible," said Calder president Ken Dunn. "If we feel that proper punishment has not been handed out we are forced to take appropriate action. If someone or some animal had gotten hurt, we wouldn't have been doing our job."
Dunn added that he had received a communication from the representative of the local Jockeys' Guild as well as from independent riders wondering why Cruz had been allowed to continue to ride despite the mounting suspensions.
In his letter to Cruz, Dunn warns that if Cruz continues riding recklessly, "Calder and Tropical Park will have no choice but to take more serious action, up to and including the imposition of a permanent bar on your access to the grounds."
At issue as well are the lengthy delays between the time an appeal is filed and the scheduling of a hearing by the Division. In November, Eddie Castro, a fellow top rider, chose to serve his mounting suspension days– all of which remained on appeal for months – rather than risk being forced to serve them during the more lucrative Calder December schedule and the opening of neighboring Gulfstream Park in January.
Through Dec. 26, Cruz maintained a lead of 11 wins over Jorge Chavez and also topped the standings by earnings with over $1.2 million. The 35-year-old Brazilian native was Calder's leading rider during the 2003 summer meet and has been runner-up to Castro at each meet since.
Neither Cruz nor his representative could be reached for comment.