Case Against Jockey Who Buzzed Horse at Sam Houston Race Park Still Unresolved

Roman Chapa thundered to victory aboard Quiet Acceleration and thanked God for the win. But it turned out he also owed his win to a buzzer.
Roman Chapa thundered to victory aboard Quiet Acceleration and thanked God for the win. But it turned out he also owed his win to a buzzer.
Photo courtesy of Jack Coady

It took a splinter of a second for a camera to capture jockey Roman Chapa thundering over the finish line aboard the then-six-year-old thoroughbred Quiet Acceleration to win the $50,000 Richard King Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park in January 2015, with what appeared to be a buzzer clutched in Chapa's left hand. But since then it has taken a significant amount of time, nearly 1,000 days, to get the resulting case against the now-46-year-old jockey resolved.

Rumors about the photos, snapped by track photographer Jack Coady, began to circulate through the racing world soon after they were posted on the Sam Houston Race Park website. Buzzers, electric shocking devices used to zap horses and get them to move faster, are banned from racing.

Chapa called and texted Coady, pushing the photographer to remove the photos from the site, according to a criminal complaint filed by Trooper Jeff Green, who investigated the incident for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Coady showed Green his cell phone log and the text messages from Chapa. But the photos stayed up, and Texas Racing Commission stewards and law enforcement investigators were soon digging into the case.

Before the end of the week, Green brought a case of unlawful influence on racing, a third-degree felony, to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, and Chapa was facing a hearing before the Texas Racing Commission and criminal charges, one of the few times a jockey has ever been charged for trying to rig a race in Harris County, as we reported at the time.

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Chapa, who claimed he was framed, to no avail, was swiftly banned from racing in Texas until 2020, given a $100,000 fine (believed to be the largest monetary sanction filed against a jockey in U.S. history) and indicted by a Harris County grand jury on unlawful influence of a horse race and lying to a Texas Racing Commission investigator.  However, since then there's been little progress in the case against Chapa.

Instead, his case has been delayed repeatedly. His defense attorney has had court proceedings reset 20 times over the past two and a half years. There have been repeated delays on depositions, court dates and pre-trial conferences as well. 

Roman Chapa was captured on the back of Quiet Acceleration as the thoroughbred darted for the finish line, but the photo also captured a buzzer in Chapa's hand.
Roman Chapa was captured on the back of Quiet Acceleration as the thoroughbred darted for the finish line, but the photo also captured a buzzer in Chapa's hand.
Image courtesy of Paulick Report

Originally, Chapa's trial was supposed to start in the fall of 2016. Then the jury trial was supposed to start on February 24, but again that didn't happen. There were two more court date delays requested by Chapa's current defense attorney, Donald Ervin, before the notice of plea deals was finally posted on the docket at the end of May.

But once again Ervin asked for more delays, pushing back Chapa's plea date to July 18 and then to August 2. Now it has once again been reset for September 8.

(We've asked Harris County prosecutors about Chapa's plans to plea and for their take on the numerous delays in the case, but we haven't heard back yet. We'll update as soon as we do.)

If the disgraced jockey actually appears in court when he's supposed to next month, the case will have dragged on just shy of 1,000 days, an impressive span of time all things considered. Keep in mind that the race itself lasted less than five minutes.


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