Electrical Jockeys

No civilized punishment is enough

By Art Parker, author of the upcoming and revised Keeneland Trainer book 

I read the recent news regarding the punishment of Roman Chapa, a jockey in the Texas circuit, who was recently suspended for using an electrical device on a horse in a race. I understand it this was the third time Chapa has been suspended in his career for using an object prohibited by the rules.

Chapa, 43, is a good rider, who has been successful enough in his usual circuit to obtain a decent flow of good horses, and when considering his success it makes it more difficult to understand his use of prohibited devices.

After the initial suspension, Texas Racing Commission executive director Chuck Trout increased Chapa’s fine from $25,000 to $100,000, and that goes along with a five year suspension.

Here is my thought on that. It’s not enough. Kick him out of the game forever.

Horse back galloping jockTruthfully, I am a little surprised that we have yet to hear more outrage from the pundits of horse racing on the Chapa incident. Perhaps we have been so determined to fight the battle over Lasix it has made us blind to serious problems like this. Whatever we decide on Lasix is fine with me. I don’t believe it is as big a problem as many make it out to be, but if we make the rules where that drug is outlawed, then so be it. But jockeys that use illegal devices? That’s a big, big deal.

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 most horse racing novice’s minds 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.

If we want our sport to grow then the cheats, be it trainers with their drugs or jockeys with their buzzers, must be dealt with harshly. The rules we have must be fair but tough and they must be enforced, which also means only rules that are enforceable should be made.

If we want our sport to grow then the integrity of horse racing must be preserved at all costs. We want things to get to the point where the public believes that any cheating results in serious punishment to offenders, and we want them to believe it because it is true.


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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 Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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