After American Pharoah … Just What Horse Racing Didn’t Need

By Art Parker

It seemed almost too good to be true. The first Triple Crown winner in 37 years and a boost to the interest in thoroughbred racing. A hero-exactly what our sport needs. And just a few days after American Pharoah wins the Triple Crown and before his connections can decide on a return race, the worst happens – cheating jockeys.

According to The Blood Horse…

    Following an extensive investigation by the Louisiana State Police Gaming Enforcement Division, three Louisiana jockeys have been arrested and charged for their roles in an alleged race-fixing scheme.  As a result of the investigation, troopers arrested Joseph Patin Jr., 46, of Opelousas; his brother Billy Patin, 51, of Opelousas; and LeSean Conyers, 24, of Lafayette, on charges of willful pulling of the reins, and cheating and swindling. Additionally, both Joseph Patin Jr. and Billy Patin were arrested on warrants for the unnatural stimulation of horses (possession of an electronic shocking device). Evidence in two separate races on July 4, 2015 revealed that the jockeys possessed hand-held shocking devices while competing in races at Evangeline Downs.”

    Billy Patin was suspended for five years after Arkansas regulators determined he used a buzzer on Valhol in the 1999 Arkansas Derby (gr. II). James Jackson’s Vahol, who entered the Arkansas Derby as a maiden, finished first in the $500,000 race at odds of 30-1, but would be placed last as part of the sanctions for Patin’s use of an electric shock device. Billy Patin would return to race riding in 2004.

    In 2008 Joe Patin Jr. was arrested on 11 criminal counts including possession of crack cocaine. Those charges followed several suspensions at the regulatory level for substance abuse problems. In 2008 he was suspended indefinitely by the Louisiana Racing Commission, but he would return to racing in 2012.

jockey riding a horse raceFor the second time this year we have jockeys that can’t play by the rules, allegedly. It first happened in the spring when Roman Chapa was caught with a buzzer. Chapa was fined $100,000 and got a five year suspension. I wrote a piece for this website after that episode and stated my position, which is, the punishment was not enough. A lifetime ban is my recommendation. And, if this bunch in Louisiana is found guilty, I would recommend the same punishment.

Let me support my recommendation using the words I used this past spring after the Chapa incident.

All of us that have been around this game forever know that the jockey is not the most important person in the race-it’s the trainer. We know that if there is a drug violation it will be the trainer’s neck in the noose. But the overwhelming majority of race goers, even many that have been going to the races forever, focus an inordinate amount of time on the jockey. They think the jockey is the most important factor in the race by far. There is a simple explanation for this illogical thought: the jockey is the only human connection the people can make. It’s the only human they see in the race. It’s the jockey that wears the ‘uniform’ and gets on the horse.

This will not change in almost every mind that watches horse racing until they learn enough about the game. And, if so many do not learn because they just do not want to get that involved, and there are plenty of those out there, then the jockey will remain the most important factor in racing in the minds of many people-forever.

This is why we must be intolerant of inappropriate jockey behavior, especially if it involves cheating. If a trainer gets suspended only a handful of people will pay attention or understand because he is not seen in the race. If a jockey is gone it will be more noticeable to more people.

The success of horse racing requires public trust. Medication concerns continue to grow because the integrity of racing is at stake. No integrity, no trust. Plain and simple. But now we have concerns over jockeys and not just medication.

I guess it was too good to be true. We got we needed-a Triple Crown winner.

Then we got something we didn’t need. More cheaters.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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