Jockey Faces New Allegations of Shocking Horse at Sam Houston Race Park

A jockey still facing criminal charges for allegedly using a buzzer to shock a horse during a stakes race at Sam Houston Race Park in January has now been accused by the Texas Racing Commission of using a buzzer to shock the same horse in the same race at Sam Houston Race Park in 2014.

On Wednesday the Texas Racing Commission issued a notice of alleged violation to jockey Roman Chapa, 43, for his winning trip aboard Quiet Acceleration at the 2014 Richard King Turf Stakes.

Since January, Chapa has been making international headlines after an incriminating finish line photo surfaced showing him aboard the six-year-old thoroughbred, Quiet Acceleration, as the two swept over the finish line to score their second consecutive victory at the 2015 $50,000 Richard King Turf Stakes. The photo, taken from the inside of the track by track photographer Jack Coady, caught that moment of victory but it also showed Chapa holding a small object in his left hand.

When Chapa saw the photo on the Sam Houston Race Park website he contacted Coady and tried to make the photographer take the photo down, according to court records. Coady told Chapa he had no control over the website. The photo stayed up and word whipped through racing circles that a photo showed Chapa holding a buzzer. Known as "machines" in the horse racing industry, a buzzer is a small battery-powered object used to shock a horse, usually in an effort to get the horse to move faster. They are strictly banned from horse racing.

Shortly after the 2015 Richard King Turf Stakes race the Texas Racing Commission stewards held a hearing on the matter. Chapa was ultimately banned from racing in Texas for five years -- the longest ban allowed -- and fined $25,000. Texas Racing Commission executive director Chuck Trout subsequently upped the fine to $100,000, the maximum penalty. Chapa has appealed this ruling which will eventually be reviewed by an administrative law judge.

Meanwhile, Chapa was charged and indicted by a Harris County Grand Jury for trying to influence a horse race, a felony. When he showed up at the 176 Harris County District Court to be arraigned on those charges on March 18, he was arrested at the courthouse and charged with lying to criminal investigators, also a felony.

The Texas Racing Commission has stayed fairly tight lipped on Chapa, making a point of noting that it was Department of Public Safety investigators who took Chapa's case to Harris County. But still, it looks like the incriminating photo from the 2015 Richard King Turf Stakes may have caused the Texas Racing Commission to take another look at Chapa's previous win in the 2014 Richard King Turf Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park.

During the 2014 stakes race Chapa rode the same horse, Quiet Acceleration, owned and trained by Danny Pish, to victory. Chapa kept Quiet Acceleration on the inside of the track for most of the race, and the horse hovered in fourth place right up until the final turn when Quiet Acceleration kicked into gear, surged ahead and never gave up the lead as he and Chapa thundered over the finish line, winning the race.

Chapa's notice of violation issued Wednesday is for allegedly carrying "an electrical shocking device when riding in and winning the 9th race at Sam Houston Race Park," during the Richard King Turf Stakes on January 18, 2014, according to the notice. The notice lists a variety of matters tied to the hearing including unlawful influence on racing, denial, suspension and revocation of a license (though we're wondering how this one will work since his license is already suspended), inhumane treatment, and possession of contraband.

Texas Racing Commission spokesman Robert Elrod has declined to comment about the notice of violation or to say why Texas Racing Commission stewards decided to review the race or what evidence they have that Chapa used a buzzer in the race.

Chapa's hearing is set for 10 a.m. April 16 at Sam Houston Race Park unless Chapa waives his right to a hearing or asks that his hearing be held as soon as possible. We have a call in Paul Vick, the lawyer who has been representing Chapa before the Texas Racing Commission. We'll update if we hear back.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray