Commenting for the first time since 10 riders were banned from various racing venues due to an ongoing investigation by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, the organization’s president, Frank Fabian, defended the TRPB’s actions and stressed his cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The bans, which began Dec. 19 last year, were initiated by individual racetracks after the TRPB presented information to management regarding a multi-faceted investigation being conducted by the FBI. Fabian testified on the matter May 3 at a hearing before a judge appointed by the Illinois Racing Board. The transcript is available in the public record.
“It should be clear from testimony which TRPB recently presented that the TRPB is working in concert with the FBI in this matter due to the fact that one aspect of their investigation impacts our industry,” Fabian told The Blood-Horse June 26. “Today, the investigation is progressing, and the TRBP continues to assist federal authorities. It is typical for a complex investigation to take a prolonged period of time to investigate and prosecute.”
Fabian said it is important to note the organization’s collaboration with the FBI in this instance.
“People would have preferred this to be over a long time ago, as would I, but the TRPB is not in a position to dictate to federal authorities when or how this investigation and prosecution is to be conducted,” he said.
According to Fabian, though wagering analysis has been completed on three races in which Houghton was a rider, “there are a number of races which include Houghton or other banned riders and are still subject to analysis.”
Houghton, currently riding in Indiana, is scheduled to appear before the Michigan Racing Commission June 28 for an investigatory hearing on the matter. The 39-year-old jockey has been prevented from riding at all tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp., including Arlington Park in Illinois. He also isn't permitted to ride at Great Lakes Downs in Michigan and Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, since the initial ban was enacted at Tampa Bay last December.
According to Houghton’s attorney in Michigan, Monica Naverro, the jockey has been cleared by Michigan stewards of any wrongdoing in the races run at Great Lakes Downs. However, the Michigan Racing Commission refused to comment on the case due to the pending investigation.
“Terry has provided all information requested by the (Michigan) commission,” said Naverro, who mentioned telephone records, bank statements, and a copy of a polygraph test as documentation for the hearing. “His application for a Michigan license is pending, and given the controversy surrounding this case, we understand it would be irresponsible of the commission to grant him a license without conducting a hearing.”
Should the jockey obtain a license in Michigan, he must still obtain permission to ride at Great Lakes, which would require a corporate decision from owner MEC. Amy MacNeil, general manager at Great Lakes Downs, referred all questions to MEC director of regulatory affairs Greg Scoggins, but Scoggins declined to comment on the situation.
Houghton has intently pursued clearing his name by initiating legal activity and hearings with state commissions since the beginning of the situation his attorney termed “a half-cocked investigation completely unsupported by expository evidence.”
Naverro has also drafted a legal case in the state of Michigan but has yet to name a defendant, while an attorney in Florida is reviewing the issue there, Houghton said.