A jockey accused of assaulting a racetrack official after he was told he was too heavy to race should be banned from North Dakota tracks for 10 years, state regulators say.
North Dakota's Racing Commission voted Tuesday to discipline Chad Warren, whom witnesses said had knocked steward Randy Blaseg to the ground outside a West Fargo restaurant on Sept. 13. Warren approached Blaseg from behind and hit him, witnesses said.
Earlier, Blaseg had refused to allow Warren to compete at Fargo's North Dakota Horse Park because he was overweight. The jockey, who was 29 years old at the time, weighed 142 pounds on race day, well over his weight limit of 134 pounds, records indicate.
Paul Bowlinger, the Racing Commission's director, said Warren has not responded to requests for comment about the case. He did not attend Tuesday's meeting, and he has not responded to messages left at two Belcourt phone numbers that are listed on his jockey license application.
At minimum, the penalty will include a 10-year ban from North Dakota tracks and a $500 fine, Bowlinger said.
Under the proposed penalty, Warren would be ineligible to ride or even to be a spectator at any North Dakota track that hosted live horse racing.
"In the racing world, this is about as bad as it gets, assaulting any track official," Bowlinger said. "We sometimes live in a very rough and tumble world on the racetrack, and if a state official has to worry about getting hit, it puts a damper on everything."
The commission's vote did not actually impose the penalty, but set a minimum for its severity. Commissioners directed Bill Peterson, an assistant attorney general who represents the Racing Commission, to negotiate a penalty with Warren. Peterson said he could demand a harsher sanction.
Warren may demand a hearing to present his case, Peterson said. An administrative law judge would then take testimony, examine evidence and make a recommendation to the commission about what the penalty should be.
Chad Benjamin, a jockey from Edmond, Okla., gave a statement saying he had witnessed the attack. He knew Warren was upset about his disqualification, and the jockey appeared to have been drinking, Benjamin said in his statement.
Bowlinger said he had consulted other state racing directors about an appropriate sanction for Warren. They said a 10-year suspension and a $500 fine would be an acceptable minimum, Bowlinger said. Some said the incident deserved a lifetime ban, he said.
Blaseg, who attended the meeting, declined comment. A resident of Rapid City, S.D., Blaseg worked as a steward during the Fargo track's inaugural racing season last summer. A steward is a referee who enforces racing rules.
The incident was reported to West Fargo police, but no charges were filed.