A jockey is now facing criminal charges for allegedly fixing a race at Sam Houston Race Park.
When Quiet Acceleration galloped to victory with jockey Roman Chapa aboard in the $50,000 Richard King Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park on January 17, the photos showed a small man riding a thoroughbred horse to victory. Of course, it turns out that the pictures taken in that moment also showed something more sinister. Chapa, 43, was caught allegedly gripping a small nude-colored object in his left palm along with the reins.
With rumors flying and photographic evidence, Texas Racing Commission stewards met with Chapa the Monday after the race. Following that meeting he was summarily suspended from riding, while the stewards noted the criminal investigation would continue, as we previously reported. Now the Harris County District Attorney's Office has filed criminal charges against Chapa for exhibiting unlawful influence on racing, a felony.
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Quiet Acceleration was defending his title in the Richard King as he and the other horses thundered over 1 1/8 miles of turf. The six-year-old horse pulled ahead during the final moments of the race to win by half a length during the ninth race of the day, according to Daily Racing Form. The other horse, Fly the Red Eye, was so close that the race was a photo finish with the deciding photo snapped track photographer Jack Coady from the inside rail, according to the Paulick Report. The photo was posted on the Sam Houston Race Park website after the race. The next day Chapa called and texted Coady and told him that it was a bad photo and asked Coady to get it off the website, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case. Coady told Chapa he didn't have any control over the website.
Chapa was acting normal the night of the race, according to the criminal complaint. The owner of the horse, the assistant horse trainer, assistant starter, agent, outrider and valet all told law enforcement they had no idea that Chapa allegedly used a buzzer during the race. The owner stated that he only found out about the possibility of a buzzer when the photo started floating around the racing community.
This isn't the first time Chapa has gotten in trouble for using this type of device. He was caught using a buzzer on a Texas track back in 1993, his first year in professional racing. The Texas Racing Commission banned him for 19 months that time, according to the New York Times. Back in 1994 Chapa fined $2,500 for using a nail to spur his horse during a race at Trinity Meadows, according to KPRC. In 2002 he was sentenced to 10 days in jail after pleading no contest for beating a dog with a strap in Harris County. Then he was caught with a buzzer in a New Mexico race in 2007. New Mexico authorities suspended him from racing in the state for five years, according to Blood Horse. The ban stayed in place until the New Mexico Racing Commission voted to allow him to start riding again on a probation period in 2011. Then Chapa was fined $100 for hitting a horse in the face at Sam Houston Race Park in 2012. Yeah, in the face.
Anyway, Chapa is still claiming the incriminating photo was photo-shopped and that he didn't buzzer his way to victory. However, Coady stated in the criminal complaint that he did nothing to the photo except enlarge it.