Nearly five months after a Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau probe resulted in the banning of 10 jockeys from various locations in Florida and Pennsylvania, riders are still experiencing difficulties due to a lack of information from the TRPB. The situation, reportedly instigated by suspicious wagering at Great Lakes Downs, has frustrated many racing officials and riders since no official word has been handed down regarding the bans.
In recent developments, jockey Terry Houghton, banned from Tampa Bay Downs with six other riders Dec. 19, will not be permitted to ride at Arlington Park this summer even though he was allowed to ride at Hawthorne Race Course when the 2007 spring meet began there in February. Houghton is currently fifth in the standings at Hawthorne, where the meet closes April 29.
“I’d like to go to Arlington because I have pretty good mounts from clients at Hawthorne,” said Houghton, who may pursue legal action against the track. “Those are my horses and I’d like to continue to ride them. Also, one of my goals was to get started at Arlington so I could stay in Illinois year-round.”
Houghton said he made back-up plans to ride in Indiana after his request to ride at Turfway Park was denied by track management earlier this year.
“It’s a shame that we lose our civil rights when we step foot on a racetrack,” he said. “Never in my career have I been in question of wrongdoing. Every day I wake up and hope this will all be over, but it’s never-ending.”
Several riders banned from Tampa Bay are still struggling to make ends meet. Joe Judice and Ricardo Valdez are galloping horses in Ocala, while Derek Bell rode briefly at Hawthorne in February but has not applied for a license in Minnesota, where he has been Canterbury Park’s leading rider for the past four years.
Mary Manney, deputy director of the Minnesota Racing Commission, said her organization has received no evidence that would prevent Bell from being licensed for the upcoming racing season that begins May 5. “We still can’t get information on what’s going on,” she said. “If he were to apply today, we would have no right to deny him a license, and according to our statutes, we would grant him permission to ride.”
Meanwhile, Rene Douglas, the first jockey to be banned in the ongoing investigation, will be allowed to ride at Arlington and Calder. Douglas was banned from Calder and Gulfstream Park, but was permitted to resume riding at Gulfstream Jan. 26. He also rode at Keeneland this spring.
“Things were settled for Rene once Gulfstream let him ride,” said the jockey’s agent, Dennis Cooper. “He didn’t do anything wrong.”