Guild to Tracks: Banned Jockeys Deserve Due Process

The Jockeys’ Guild said Jan. 29 it has sent a letter to the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and officials at three racetracks in Florida and Pennsylvania protesting what it calls the “unlawful and harmful” unexplained expulsions of 10 riders.

The jockeys were banned in December from Calder Race Course, Philadelphia Park Racetrack & Casino, and Tampa Bay Downs. Rene Douglas, who was asked to leave the grounds at Calder, was told Jan. 26 he would be permitted to ride at Gulfstream Park. The nine other riders remain on the sidelines.

A Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau investigation is said to center on wagers made on a race at Great Lakes Downs in 2006. Officials have offered no information on the jockey bans.

“While your racetracks are private property, they are not exempt from the obligation to provide jockeys with due process before they are prevented from earning a living,” Guild national manager Dwight Manley wrote in his letter to the tracks. “You are acting in concert to deprive these individuals of gainful employment that would otherwise be available to them. These jockeys have been deprived of thousands of dollars of income that must be returned to them, and those losses are continuing.”

The letter was sent to TRA executive vice president Chris Scherf, Tampa Bay general manager Peter Berube, Calder president Ken Dunn, and Philly Park chief executive officer Hal Handel.

The jockeys who were barred from riding by the tracks without explanation in December are Alex Beitia, Derek Bell, Jesus Bracho, Jorge Bracho, Luis Castillo, Jose H. Delgado, Rene Douglas, Terry Houghton, Joseph Judice, and Ricardo Valdes.

In the letter, Manley cited various federal court rulings and a section of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to notify racing industry officials they have “a constitutional obligation to allow these jockeys to return to riding unless and until they have received adequate due process, which at a minimum includes the notice of the charges they face and an opportunity to confront their accusers at an impartial tribunal.”

Manley in his letter asked that the jockeys be notified “immediately that they are again free to engage in racing at your tracks.”

Racetracks have had a mixed response to the TRPB probe. Laurel Park allowed Beitia to ride, and Hawthorne Race Course allowed Douglas to compete. Turfway Park, meanwhile, denied Houghton’s request to ride there. A few track officials in late December said they weren’t told why the jockeys were banned and therefore wouldn’t deny them access to their facilities.