09/22/2015 11:56AM

Jockey takes another's whip in Parx stretch duel


The fourth race at Parx on Monday was a typical $15,000 restricted claiming race until upper stretch, at which point jockey Angel Castillo appeared to lose his whip and then either take or be handed the whip of Pierre Hernandez-Ortega, with whom he was racing in tight quarters.

Castillo went on to hit his mount 16 times with the whip after the incident and was up to finish second in the 1 1/16-mile race. Hernandez-Ortega’s mount, Distant Thoughts, tired to finish sixth.

On Monday, Castillo, through his agent of five years, Jim Marini, said, “We got tangled up. I don’t know what happened to my whip or exactly what happened. There was no discussion between Pierre and me during the race.”

There was not an official inquiry or a jockeys’ objection announced following the race, but there was a gap of five minutes or so before the results were made official.

Castillo said the stewards asked him after the race what happened and that he told them, “we got tangled up.”

Parx steward John Hicks said Tuesday morning that it was Pennsylvania Racing Commission policy for the stewards not to discuss racing matters with the press.

Tuesday afternoon, Walter Remmert, the acting executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, said he had spoken with chief state steward Jonathan Gerweck about the decision not to disqualify Interchange from second place.

“Jonathan told me they did not think the horse did anything wrong and that it was a riders’ infraction,” Remmert said.

Remmert said the stewards would be “held accountable for their decision.” He said hearing notices would be going out to both riders, who will meet with the stewards and go over the video to ascertain exactly what happened. Any sanctions against Castillo and/or Ortega-Hernandez would be issued after the hearing.

“I don’t think anyone is contesting that Castillo returned after the race with another rider’s crop,” Remmert said.

This is the second controversy that Castillo, who is third in the Parx rider standings as of Tuesday morning, and Ortega-Hernandez, who is fifth, have been involved in together this meet.

In May, during a Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission search of the Parx jockeys’ room, an electrical device was found. The device was originally thought to be Castillo’s, and he was taken off his remaining mounts that day. Castillo was later vindicated and Ortega-Hernandez was found by the commission to be the owner of the device. He has had his jockeys’ license revoked. Ortega-Hernandez has appealed the commission’s decision and been granted a stay and allowed to ride. Several planned hearings of his appeal have been postponed. A hearing is now scheduled for December.

During race 4 on Monday, Interchange, with Castillo aboard, was moving up behind Distant Thoughts when that rival bore out under Ortega-Hernandez. Castillo guided Interchange to the inside of Distant Thoughts and the two horses ended up in close quarters. Castillo appears to reach over and come away with the whip of Ortega-Hernandez.

While it is extremely rare for a jockey to take another rider’s whip during a race, it has been done before.

In 2011, in Ipswich, Australia, jockey Shane Scriven took the whip of apprentice Ben Looker near the finish of a race. Looker had knocked Scriven's whip from his hand earlier in the stretch.

Scriven was suspended five months and Looker was suspended two weeks for not reporting the incident.

A more famous incident occurred during the 1979 Grand Prix de Deauville in France when Lester Piggott took the whip of Alain Lequeux, who was aboard Jeune Loup, in the stretch. Piggott finished second aboard African Hope but was disqualified to third behind Jeune Loup. Piggott was suspended 20 days.