By Bill Finley
Jockey Mychel Sanchez, who has been suspended 60 days by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission for betting on horses other than the ones he rode, is not a cheat or a race-fixer, his attorney told the TDN Friday. Rather, said lawyer Alan Pincus, Sanchez was dealing with a serious case of depression and took to gambling as an outlet. Pincus said that in all instances Sanchez tried his best to win the races in question, whether he had bet against his own horse or not.
“It was clear he was giving his best effort,” Pincus said. “He was not fixing races. He won several of the races in which he bet against his horses. The horse paid $37 in one race, $27 in another. He was just doing something crazy that only a psychiatrist can explain.”
With Sanchez's main track, Parx, dark Friday, the jockey was listed on two mounts at Laurel. After the Maryland Racing Commission learned of the Pennsylvania suspension, Sanchez was taken of his mounts. The Maryland Jockey Club and 1/ST RACING issued a statement later in the day in which it said Sanchez has been banned indefinitely.
“After learning of the serious allegations of illegal wagering on the part of jockey Mychel Sanchez, effective immediately 1/ST RACING will institute an indefinite ban against him from training or racing at any 1/ST RACING venue,” read a statement issued by 1/ST RACING. “Any decision regarding Sanchez's reinstatement will be made at a later time. 1/ST RACING stands on the principles of integrity and accountability, and we believe there is no place in our sport for this kind of unethical and illegal activity.”
Tom Chuckas, the director of the Thoroughbred division of the Pennsylvania Racing Commission, was not available to the media. A call to his office went to voice mail and no one returned the call from the TDN seeking comment. There was nothing related to Sanchez's suspension on the page on the Pennsylvania Racing Commission's website listing rulings. An official ruling will likely be issued following a regularly scheduled commission meeting next week.
Should Chuckas ever make himself available, he will likely be asked to explain what appears to be a serious offense resulted in a suspension of just 60 days.
“Mychal is a straight shooter and he has worked hard and with skill and talent has risen to a very strong position,” Pincus said. “He is the sole support for his family both here and in Venezuela and life, on the surface, was great for him. But, he was feeling depressed. And he was not doing anything to deal with it. He was just turning inward. He turned to gambling on the races for a very short period of time. I'm not a psychiatrist, but he was doing this to numb the pain.”
Pincus said that Sanchez opened a TVG account in his own name and began betting Dec. 23 and made his last bets Jan. 3. He went six for 28 during that period. During that time, he also rode at Aqueduct and at Laurel. Pincus said he was not sure whether or not Sanchez also bet against his mounts in New York and Maryland or just at Parx. If he bet against himself in New York or in Maryland, he could face additional penalties from those states.
“We will look into this,” said J. Michael Hopkins, the executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission. “But right now he's suspended in Pennsylvania, so there's no need to be in a rush because he doesn't ride here regularly. But we will definitely take a look at it.”
TVG employees noticed that the jockey had been betting against his own horses and notified the appropriate racing commissions.
Having, through his lawyer, admitted that he bet against his own horses, Sanchez will not fight the suspension.
“He was suspended 60 days starting [Friday] to the 21st of March,” Pincus said. “Obviously, it was warranted. We are not going to appeal this.”
Pincus said that Sanchez has already enrolled in a problem gambling program and has also sought out psychiatric help.
“He just did something because of a mental problem,” Pincus said. “People are responsible for their own actions, but he has to be viewed with sympathy.”
Sanchez began riding in the U.S. in 2013 and was the leading rider at Parx in 2020. According to Equibase, he's won 940 races from 6,097 mounts.