A request by jockey Terry Houghton to be licensed in Kentucky was tabled Feb. 25 by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s license review committee.
The action came after Houghton and representatives of The Jockeys’ Guild testified that action taken by Tampa Bay Downs in 2006 to exclude Houghton and other riders from that track, and a subsequent investigation, never led to any charges or allegations of wrongdoing against the rider.
Houghton was one of seven jockeys ruled off by Tampa Bay after agents of the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau began looking into irregular betting patterns at races in Michigan and Tampa Bay in 2006. Of those excluded from the track, only one – Ricardo Valdes – has faced any charges.
Valdes is charged in federal court in Michigan with mail fraud, sports bribery, and racketeering in a race- fixing investigation, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
During his 22-year riding career, Houghton has ridden 4,439 winners from 26,132 mounts for a win rate of 16%. His mounts have earned more than $41.1 million and he has an in-the-money (top three finish) rate of 44%.
Since the Tampa Bay incident, Houghton has been licensed to ride in nine states. He has been subjected to thorough investigations in Michigan and Illinois before those states granted him a license. He has, however, been excluded from riding at tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc.
Under questioning from KHRC licensing review committee chairman Burr Travis, Houghton outlined the TRPB investigation into the Tampa Bay and Michigan race-betting patterns. He denied to TRPB representatives that he ever failed to put forth his best effort on a horse and that he never held a horse. Houghton also answered the same way to similar questions asked him by Travis.
Houghton told the Kentucky commissioners that he is regularly based at Mountaineer Racetrack & Gaming Resort in West Virginia and has not ridden since that track’s meet ended in late December. Houghton was applying for a Kentucky license primarily so he could ride at Turfway Park, near a home he has in Burlington, Ky. He said he had hoped the rules committee, which had not met since the beginning of the year due to scheduling and weather conflicts, would have considered his request so he could have ridden at Turfway prior to his scheduled return to West Virginia in early March. He said a Kentucky license would also allow him to compete in stakes races in the Bluegrass state.
Following an executive session, the committee unanimously voted to table Houghton’s request for a Kentucky license. Travis said the primary consideration for the action was to await the outcome of the Michigan case involving one of the seven riders excluded from Tampa Bay.
Travis acknowledged that the committee had no reason to question Houghton's integrity, but that it would prefer to defer the matter until the Michigan case involving Valdes has been concluded. He said another consideration was that Houghton was not seeking to ride in Kentucky on a regular basis since the Mountaineer Park meet would begin again soon and the rider would be leaving the state.