Gulfstream Park to Deny Access to Banned Riders

With less than one week remaining until the start of the 2007 racing season, officials at Gulfstream Park said they would not grant access to the 10 jockeys banned from other tracks this month.

Rene Douglas, Jose Bracho, Jorge Bracho, Derek Bell, Luis Castillo, Jose Delgado, Terry Houghton, Joseph Judice, Ricardo Valdes and Alex Beitia will not be permitted to ride at Gulfstream when live racing begins Jan. 3, although they have not been suspended or charged with any particular offense.

Gulfstream Park spokesman Mike Mullaney said the track is exercising its rights as a private property owner. Until the investigation is completed, the track will not permit the involved parties to be employed at Gulfstream in any manner, he said.

Douglas and Jose Bracho were ruled off at Calder on Dec. 15 and 16, respectively, Jorge Bracho, Bell, Castillo, Delgado, Houghton, Judice and Valdes were banned from Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 19, and Beitia was denied access by Philadelphia Park on Dec. 19.

Gulfstream president Paul Micucci and vice president Bill Murphy did not return calls seeking comment on the situation.

Agent Danny Mellul, who represents Douglas, said Murphy confirmed Dec. 27 that all 10 jockeys would be denied access at the upcoming meet. He said Douglas plans to pursue legal action in the case and would seek to move his tack outside of Florida during the winter months only as a last resort.

According to Mellul, there still is no word as to whether the Calder bans are connected to those at Tampa and Philly Park, both of which trace back to a TRPB investigation connected to at least one race at Great Lakes Downs in Michigan. Each track management group has enacted its right as a private property owner to eject the jockeys from their grounds.

"We're still trying to find out what's going on, and they're not making it easy," Mellul said. "Nobody's returning phone calls. It's crazy."

Herbie Rivera, a representative for the Jockeys' Guild, said some of the jockeys ejected from Tampa are pursuing employment as exercise riders in an effort to make ends meet, while others are sitting tight as recommended by their legal counsel.

"These guys just want to do the right thing," Rivera said. "They don't know what they've done wrong, and they don't want to do anything without having clearance to do it. It's tough; either the tracks should accuse them of something or let them go."

In Chicago, officials at Hawthorne Race Course said the banned jockeys would be permitted to ride, though the Illinois track's 2006 meet concludes Jan. 1. Hawthorne opens for spring racing on Feb. 23.

"We can't operate blindly," said track president Tim Carey. "Unless we are given a ruling, or are presented significant information on the issue that is preventing the riders in question from being allowed to compete at these tracks, we will not pass judgement. They will be viewed in good standing."

Rivera said officials at Turfway Park in Kentucky have also considered allowing the banned jockeys to ride, but told Rivera the track would review each rider’s request with the Florida tracks and the TRPB before doing so.

"None of the jockeys who have been ejected from Tampa Bay, Calder, or Philadelphia Park have contacted Turfway about riding at our facilities," Turfway president Bob Elliston said. "Today was the first call I got from anybody, when I talked to Mr. Rivera, and I said if a jockey contacted us about riding here we would speak to the tracks that had ejected the jockey and also to the TRPB to get additional information on the situation before we decided whether to permit the banned rider on our premises."

"We're just trying to reassure these guys because they're down and out," Rivera said. "We're hoping since Christmas is over these tracks will come forward with something so we can at least start to develop a defense. The jockeys in question all have lawyers, and we're going to stand behind them to find out what's going on."