Great Lakes Downs Race Key to Jockey Probe

While racetrack managers and investigators are keeping a tight lid on information related to why jockeys have been ruled off the grounds at Calder Race Course and Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, officials close to the situation say the rulings are connected to at least one race that was run in summer of 2006 at Great Lakes Downs in Michigan.

"I'm assuming it's the same race they're looking into, because the TRPB took it over from us," Herberto Rivera, a former steward who worked during Great Lakes' 2006 meet before becoming a regional representative of the Jockeys' Guild, told the Daily Racing Form. Rivera also told the Form that the investigation was still open when the Michigan track's meet ended Nov. 7.

Investigators from the TRPB picked up the case when a large number of suspicious wagers were cashed at Delaware Park following the race in question. One of the banned Tampa riders, Terry Houghton, rode in that particular race, although Rivera said investigators did not find anything suspicious in Houghton's ride.

On Dec. 19, Tampa Bay management banned seven jockeys due to what they called "an ongoing investigation," although they would not attribute that investigation to any particular organization. The riders--Jorge G. Bracho, Derek C. Bell, Luis A. Castillo, JoseH. Delgado, Terry D. Houghton, Joseph C. Judice, and Ricardo A. Valdes--have been refused access to the facility indefinitely based on the racetrack's rights as a private property owner. Several of the riders, including Delgado, were questioned by TRPB agents on multiple occasions in the weeks leading up to the ban.

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.

On Dec. 15, Calder Race Course in South Florida banned jockey Rene Douglas and offered no comment on the reason; Jose Bracho was ruled off a day later. Calder management also noted the track is private property. Officials were unable to say whether the Calder bans are related to the Tampa Bay situation.

The TRPB, now headed by former FBI agent Frank Fabian, falls under the auspices of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group. According to its annual report for 2005, the organization worked on a number of cases, including those involving an attempt to influence the outcome of a race, on-track bookmaking, possession and use of illegal drugs by jockeys and stable employees, and betting coups by licensees through offshore bookmakers.

In a statement in the annual report, Fabian said in part: "As TRPB enters its 60th year of operation (in 2006), it is poised to move forward in ways of great benefit and value to its TRA-member associations. The criminal activity detailed earlier, other ongoing federal investigations, interest in wagering issues by some in Congress, and continued erosion in the betting public's confidence have acted as a catalyst for the amalgamation of numerous efforts" by the industry, and the TRPB is involved in those efforts.

Lawyers from the Jockeys' Guild were in the process of determining whether the situations at Calder and Tampa warrant Guild involvement. So far, the organization has not become actively involved in either case.

It is uncertain whether the banned jockeys will be permitted to ride at other tracks, a question which concerns several riders and agents since Gulfstream's upcoming 2007 season begins Jan. 3.