By T. D. Thornton
An Aqueduct apprentice jockey who last year was suspended 10 days for allegedly not dismounting from his injured horse in a timely manner had his penalty wiped off the books via appeal by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) Monday.
The case involved jockey Benjamin Hernandez, who rode Tiger Man (Desert Party) in the eighth race Feb. 8, 2019. According to the Equibase chart, the 0-for-9 maiden-claimer “completed the half hobbling its way to the quarter pole, was eased [and] then pulled up.”
The NYSGC's Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database noted that Tiger Man “sustained injury to left front leg, [was] ambulanced off track and subsequently euthanized next morning due to poor prognosis.”
Executive Director Robert Williams read into the record that the state steward at Aqueduct alleged a “failure to ride in a professional manner” when citing the reasoning behind the 10-day penalty. “Specifically, [Hernandez] was accused of failing to protect the best interest of his mount by not dismounting when his horse illustrated distress.”
Hernandez appealed, and his case was heard over three days in June and July. In a Dec. 30 written report, the hearing officer recommended that the finding of the violation be upheld, but that the penalty be reduced to five days.
Chairman Barry Sample said Monday that after the commissioners read the full report, they voted 4-0 to “modify” the hearing officer's recommendation to instead “provide for no suspension.”
Monday's NYSGC agenda was extremely light in terms of actionable items. The only other case heard on appeal involved charity bingo violations by a volunteer fire department. From the call of order to adjournment, the entire NYSGC meeting clocked in at six minutes, 40 seconds.
Two issues of importance that are being widely debated by racing and gaming commissions nationwide–whip reform and a possible phasing out of Lasix–both figured to come up under the “old business” heading, but neither did.
At the December meeting, the NYSGC directed staff “to undertake a review of Lasix use changes nationwide and the progress of NYRA's reported Lasix use changes and report findings at the January Commission meeting.”
In addition, staff in December were also “directed to discuss the proposed California crop use proposal with the NYRA jockey colony and with other leading regulatory jurisdictions and report back at a future Commission meeting.”
But Monday, Sample cited the absence of commissioner Peter Moschetti, who had a previous commitment and was unavailable to attend the NYSGC meeting, as the reason the NYSGC would put off discussing those major topics.
Sample said that the issue of the crop “was of keen interest to commissioner Moschetti, and the Lasix issue was of keen interest for commissioner [John] Crotty. Due to the fact that commissioner Moschetti is not with us today, we'd like to take that matter up at our next meeting, where we could have more of a comprehensive discussion of the matter.”