Race Riding or Foul
By: Nick D’Agostino
Race riding is an art. Knowing how far you can push a horse out, or intimidate a rider or his mount without fouling to the point of disqualification is a tightrope the best race riders walk all the time. Do they sometimes cross the line, sure. Is there a distinct difference between careless riding and race riding, absolutely.
Some of the best jockeys of all time were race riders. Bill Hartack, Eddie Arcaro, Manny Ycaza, and Angel Cordero could all be counted on to not make things easy for the competition. If the other horse or jockey had a weakness, they would not only find it but exploit it. We all remember Angel Cordero’s ride on Codex in the Preakness. He intimidated the great filly Genuine Risk enough to cost her the win, but not enough to get disqualified giving D. Wayne Lukas his first triple crown race victory. How about Patrick Valenzuela race riding Pat Day and Easy Goer into submission in the Preakness. Or Pat Day with some help from Laffit Pincay sandwiching Angel Cordero and Slew O’ Gold in the very first Breeders’ Cup Classic. Race riding is an art, and provides some of the most exciting history in the game. Careless riding is another story.
Paco Lopez recently came off a 30-day suspension handed to him because of careless riding that resulted in two jockeys being injured. This particular incident caused Romero Maragh to have back surgery to fix broken vertebrae and left Carlos Montalvo with a fractured ankle.
Paco has a history of being accused of being wreck-less on the racetrack. As far back as when he first arrived at Calder Race Course he was spoken to by the stewards for being careless not only in the afternoon during races but also in the morning during workouts.
Since 2007 Paco Lopez has amassed over 80 million dollars in earnings, obviously he is no stranger to the winner’s circle, but at what cost? The incident which left Maragh and Montalvo arose when Paco swung his mount out to get room and crossed over into the path of another horse. A rider has the obligation to make sure they are clear before attempting such a move. In that case the stewards, many race watchers, and even fellow riders felt he wasn’t clear.
Following the suspension one would think Paco Lopez would be a little more cautious, or even tone down the aggressive style that many in the industry feel crosses over too dangerous. Apparently not. April 14th at Gulfstream Park, Paco was riding Itsmyluckycharm for Edward Plesa as the odds on favorite. Coming down the stretch, he was bottled up and had no room. Paco swung his mount out and impeded Let’s Go Baby forcing Leonel Reyes to take up abruptly while being pushed into Isadorable Aida. Another suspension was levied, but what’s to make anyone think this time lesson learned?
Maybe it is the approaching Kentucky Derby that has riders more pumped up and aggressive than normal. They are athletes, and extremely competitive. The Derby brings out the competitive juices in all involved in the Sport of Kings.
David Cohen apparently took rough riding to an old school level.
The Arkansas Association of Racing Commissioners International website alleges that Cohen “deliberately” whipped fellow jockey Edgar Morales several times during the eighth race on April 6 at Oaklawn Park.
Cohen, while riding Bolita Boyz, was carried wide into the stretch of the six-furlong race by No Funny Biz, ridden by Edgar Morales. The two raced in tight quarters as a team through the stretch, with Cohen applying left-handed strokes of the whip to his mount and apparently also striking Morales.
Bolita Boyz finished fourth as part of an entry favored at 4-5 odds. No Funny Biz finished fifth at 10-1.
When the race ended and the riders returned to the jockeys room, according to the ruling, Morales confronted Cohen, telling stewards he told him: “You whipped me more than you did your horse.”
Morales said he had four welts on his right thigh from Cohen’s whip, telling stewards that “it was not an accident, he meant to do it.”
According to Morales, Cohen told him, “Be patient and don’t take me wide.” Several other people in the jockey’s room heard the encounter and provided an account to the stewards who suspended Cohen.
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