The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) has levied a fine of $500 to jockey John Velazquez in relation to a July 4th incident in which the jockey misused his riding crop on his horse Tonalist during the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont. The jockey was accused by a racing steward of inappropriately whipping his horse. The allegation was supported by a state hearing officer deeming “substantial evidence” to find Velazquez guilty. The NYSGC voted 5-0 in favor of handing down the fine.
The lawyer representing Velazquez, Andrew Mollica, argued its common practice for riding crops to come into contact accidentally with the head or ear of a horse during the course of a race. “Our contention is it happens in every race. Why do you pick this one out?” Mollica wondered.
Mollica was awaiting access to the final report from the hearing officer, insisting Velazquez didn’t mean to “make contact with Tonalist’s head or ears.”
In a separate case regarding another one of Mollica’s clients, jockey Jose Lezcano was cleared of any wrongdoing stemming from a steward’s claim accusing him of violating two rules of striking his horse, Flag On the Play, with goggles during a race at Belmont on June 11.
In the case of Lezcano, Mollica declared victory, saying the ruling in favor of his client was “a great win because jockeys need to know what the rules are and aren’t. In this case there was no rule.”
According to Mollica, Lezcano’s riding crop was dropped during the midst of the race so he used goggles in order to urge his horse, a practice which other jockeys have used and weren’t fined for.