Alex Beitia became the 10th jockey known to be denied access to a U.S. racetrack this month when Philadelphia Park officials cited an ongoing investigation and barred him from working there for an indefinite period on Tuesday.
However, Beitia was allowed to ride at Laurel Park in Maryland, where officials said he would be permitted on the grounds unless details of the investigation were disclosed.
"I don't think it's right to ban someone just because of someone else's opinion," said Lou Raffetto, senior vice president of racing for Laurel. He told The Daily Racing Form, "We're letting him ride."
Philadelphia Park was the first Northeast track to prevent a jockey from accessing its premises due to the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau investigation. On Dec. 15, Calder Race Course in South Florida ruled jockey Rene Douglas off the grounds. Jose Bracho was ruled off a day later. On Dec. 19, Tampa Bay banned seven jockeys ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬" Jorge G. Bracho, Derek C. Bell, Luis A. Castillo, Jose H. Delgado, Terry D. Houghton, Joseph C. Judice, and Ricardo A. Valdes.
Each track management group refused the riders access to their facilities based on the track's rights as a private property owner, but the Tampa bans are reportedly related to a TRPB investigation of one or more races held at Michigan's Great Lakes Downs this summer, when suspiciously large wagers were cashed by bettors at Delaware Park.
Four of the banned riders -- Delgado, Houghton, Judice, and Valdes -- competed this year at Great Lakes Downs, and Houghton took the meet title there with 185 wins. Bracho spent the spring, summer, and fall in Indiana and Ohio; Bell rode this summer at Canterbury Park in Minnesota; and Castillo was based in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Officials have not said whether the Calder bans are related to the Tampa Bay situation. Several riders at tracks across the nation reportedly faced questioning from TRPB agents on multiple occasions in the weeks leading up to the ban, but none of the banned jockeys were given an official reason for the harsh action.
"We still don't know what's going on," said Danny Mellul, Rene Douglas' agent. "We're just at a loss for words ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬" they say the Tampa bans are related to the Great Lakes race, but that doesn't include us. Rene was never involved with those jocks, he has no clue who they are."
Mellul said Douglas is pursuing legal action, but his main concern was whether Gulfstream Park in Miami, Fla., would permit the banned jockeys to ride when the 2007 meet opens Jan. 3.
"We're pursuing information from Gulfstream and we haven't heard anything yet, but we're trying to set up some sort of meeting so we can find out what their position is," he said. "I can't go around asking for mounts if I don't know what's going on."
Gulfstream President Paul Micucci did not return a call seeking comment on the situation.
Meanwhile, the Jockeys' Guild is encouraging the banned riders to pursue legal action. Regional representative Herbie Rivera, who was a steward at Great Lakes Downs during the 2006 meet, has been helping to collect information in Florida. He said the Guild's lawyers will meet with attorneys selected by the Tampa jockeys to review the situation on Friday.
"When the situation happened, we called the track management right away, but they won't tell us anything, and the TRPB won't talk either," said Rivera. "These guys don't know what to do, they're lost. There's no due process, and that's wrong."When asked if other jockeys may face bans in connection with the case, Rivera said, "It could be," adding that rumors have been flying since the first ban at Calder." Guild manager Dwight Manley said the actions are unfair.
"In any other sport, you can't be kept from going to work without a cause," said Manley. "If there is an accusation, you have the right to be heard and have the thing set aside or have an immediate face-to-face over it. In this case, there's nothing like that; and it's not fair. What if charges are unfounded, what if people were dragged into this by circumstance? If there are innocent people here who are not allowed to ride, how will the tracks make that up? These jockeys can't ride, they have to stay at home, they can't earn a living, they're already being punished before the investigation is complete. There's no recourse if the track was wrong."