How Trainer Bob Baffert Deals with Jockeys

Bob Baffert, still fresh and snappy after hours of morning interviews, steps into his stall-sized office at Barn 5 near the front of the Santa Anita backstretch. He immediately looks on his desk to find a faded winner’s circle picture from a long-ago quarter-horse track. “See who the jockey is? What do you think of that?”… [Read more…]

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.

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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by Jude Feld (reprinted with permission of our friends at Horse Racing Radio Network)

Jude Feld, handicapper and bloggerA lot of talk during the weeks leading up to the 2012 Belmont Stakes (G1) centered on jockey switches. Two of the main contenders, Union Rags and Dullahan, who on race day would be the top two odds choices when I’ll Have Another scratched, were both changing riders.

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux was being replaced on Dullahan after a bad breathalyzer test weeks earlier upset his connections.

Union Rags probably should have won the Florida Derby (G1) but was never given the chance by jockey Julien Leparoux. After another troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1), he was sent packing in favor of Hall of Fame elect John Velazquez.

The switch to Velazquez proved positive for Union Rags with a huge and trouble-free victory, while Dullahan was so unthreatening, he obviously wasn’t going to win, even if the great Isaac Murphy rose from the dead to ride him.

Jockey switches in major races always draw headlines, but what about your average race – a maiden claimer on a Thursday or an allowance race on Friday afternoon?

There are three types of jockey switches the handicapper should pay attention to in every race on the card.

Switching to a top rider.

This is basically a no-brainer, and therefore most noticed by the general public, usually making the odds drop. It is a very positive indicator however.

Owners and trainers need rank and file jocks to ride their horses as they learn the racing game or get ready for winning efforts coming off a layoff, but when the horse is ready to win, they often tip their hand by hiring a top five rider. It happens every day, some days many times. It is not a guarantee of success at the windows but it is a solid indication of trainer intent.

Switching to a rider who has won with the horse before.

This switch is a lot more subtle and can be responsible for some excellent prices. Because many fans use a track program for their handicapping, it is more easily spotted by players with a full set of past performance charts.

I claimed a horse named Slay the Dragon when I first started training. He hadn’t won a race in three years. I had cashed a ticket on him in his last win and Fernando Toro had ridden him that day. He got fit and happy while I had him and after a nice gate work, he was ready to enter. I had to really make a case to Toro’s agent, Chick McClellan, to give me the call, but he did in the end and it worked out perfectly. Slay the Dragon was an easy winner.

Some riders have a knack with certain horses, some horses prefer certain riders. It might be something subtle like the pressure of the bit in their mouth or how the rider holds the reins that matters to a horse or it can be a matter of riding style that causes horse and rider to gel.

The great John H. M Gosden trained a horse many years ago who had a breathing problem. Jockey Terry Lipham knew this and found a way to ride him that allowed the horse to breathe better. He was one of the greatest betting tools ever. Without Lipham he ran horribly. With Lipham, he was near stakes caliber.

Top rider jumps ship.

This can be a big negative. Top jockeys usually have top agents and the two are usually in constant contact with each other. Every mount is discussed post race and even if the conversation is brief, it is important. Riders know which horses they like, who they think has potential and who they wish to avoid in the future.

It helps to know the rider’s regular client base because sometimes jockeys are first call jockeys of a particular stable and may be forced to ride a lesser horse because of their commitments, but all things being equal, if a top five rider gets off of a horse it is not a good sign. It is even more glaring if he sits the race out.

It’s been said that Thoroughbred horse racing is 95% horse and 5% jockey, and in handicapping players should concentrate the bulk of their attention on the horse’s form. But there are instances when noticing a jockey switch can mean adding hundreds of dollars to your bottom line and that’s what horseplaying is all about.