Jockey Investigation a Hot Topic at RCI Conference

Frustrations with racetracks handling of recent jockey exclusions bubbled over during a committee meeting at the Association of Racing Commissioners International annual convention April 24, with attendees bemoaning the negative attention caused by the ongoing situation.

Michigan Racing Commissioner Christine White got the debate rolling when she told fellow regulators that she still hadn’t heard any of the details of the investigation on 10 jockeys who were banned in December from Calder Race Course, Philadelphia Park, and Tampa Bay Downs.

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

“I’ve had numerous conversations with Magna (Entertainment Corp.) and they have not released any information to me,” White said of discussions with the operator of Great Lakes Downs.

“I wouldn’t call them heated, but they have been intense discussions,” White told committee attendees that also included Jockey's Guild national manager Dwight Manley, among others.

Manley, who has been vocal about the lack of due process given to the riders, repeatedly questioned the TRPB’s handling of the investigation.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said to a panel that included White and respective RCI president Ed Martin and executive vice-president Paul Bowlinger. “I’m not blaming the racing commissioners, at least not yet, but either there is something there or there isn’t.”

Martin said the investigation “wasn’t racing’s finest hour,” but called for increased dialogue between all involved.

“We would hope that a conclusion would be reached sooner than later,” he said. “It would be helpful to everyone. I think we are all trying to get to the same place. But if you are going to start ejecting in a high-profile way, you have to know that you are going to attract a lot of interest.”

Minnesota Racing Commission deputy director Mary Manney said her state was facing a tough call on whether to license one of the involved riders -- presumably multiple-leading rider Derek Bell -- before Canterbury Park’s meet starts May 5.

“We are in a situation where one of the jockeys has been the leading rider at Canterbury for four years, and we still can’t get any information on what is going on,” she told the panel. “Our statutes say we have to license him. We have a little more than a week before our meet starts, and we have a tough decision to make on whether he will or not.”

Bell and some other of the riders, including Terry Houghton and Rene Douglas, have been cleared by some tracks to ride.

The committee meeting was part of the week-long RCI convention, which is being held at Snake River Lodge in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

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