Joe Judice, one of seven jockeys banned from Tampa Bay Downs this past December because of an investigation into alleged race-fixing, returned to the saddle June 3 at River Downs and promptly won with his first two mounts of the meet.
Judice is the latest of the banned jockeys to return to riding at different tracks. Hawthorne Race Course, Indiana Downs, Laurel Park, and now River Downs have allowed Tampa Bay-banned jockeys to compete. The Florida track took the action because of a Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau probe.
Judice, a longtime regular at Tampa Bay and at tracks in Louisiana and Michigan, returned with style when he guided Tequilas Shadeed to an easy win at 16-1 in a maiden-claiming test for owner Dean Hayes and trainer Frank Pezzarossi. He then won with 4-1 Beau Rocket in a claiming event for owner Ascendant Farm and trainer Kenny Wirth.
River Downs general manager Jack Hanessian couldn't be immediately reached for comment June 3 on Judice's return, but the Ohio State Racing Commission has granted the jockey a license.
Terry Houghton, also banned at Tampa Bay, is currently the fifth-leading rider at Indiana Downs. Houghton was unable to receive permission to ride at Arlington Park and has sued the Illinois racetrack. This past winter, Houghton was excluded from riding at Turfway Park in Kentucky, but Hawthorne allowed him to compete.
The TRPB still hasn't publicly commented on the investigation, which is believed to involve wagers made on races Great Lakes Downs in Michigan. Houghton and Judice have regularly ridden there in the past.
A recent Illinois Racing Board hearing to address Houghton's request for a license revealed the TRPB believes a wagering analysis produced "substantial and compelling evidence" the jockeys were involved in race-fixing. But the TRPB was unable to produce material evidence that expressly implicates Houghton in the fixing of races. Though Houghton voluntarily submitted to a polygraph test he made available to the TRPB and the FBI, neither organization has made use of that material.
Houghton's lawyer, Arthur Engelland, said no investigators talked to trainers, veterinarians, or grooms in connection with the case.
No jockeys have been charged in the case, which seems to have become more of a private-property issue. The Jockeys' Guild claims the riders are being denied due process; the tracks, as private property, have the power of exclusion.