12/20/2006 12:00AM

Rider bans said to trace to Great Lakes race


The racing-industry investigation that led to the Tuesday bans of seven jockeys at Tampa Bay Downs traces in part to at least one race run at Great Lakes Downs in Michigan late this past summer, according to several racing officials with knowledge of the investigation.

The race was targeted by investigators after bettors at Delaware Park cashed a large number of suspicious wagers on the race, according to the officials. One of the riders banned on Tuesday by Tampa Bay, Terry Houghton, rode in the race in question, the officials said.

Herberto Rivera, a former steward at Great Lakes Downs who is now a regional representative of the Jockeys' Guild, said that when Great Lakes ended its racing season on Nov. 7, the investigation into the race was still considered "open." Rivera also said that the jockeys who were banned were questioned by investigators from the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau at Tampa Bay last week about the Great Lakes race.

"I'm assuming it's the same race they're looking into, because the TRPB took it over from us," said Rivera, who was a steward during the 2006 Great Lakes meet. Rivera said he could not comment on why the race was under investigation.

Two racing officials with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that the Tampa bans were related to the investigation at Great Lakes Downs and Delaware Park. The officials said they could not be identified because the investigation is still ongoing. One of the officials said that another race at Great Lakes involving Houghton was also being investigated.

None of the officials would disclose or could identify the race or races in question.

Rivera said that investigators did not uncover anything suspicious about Houghton's rides, but said that several aspects of the case had not been answered by the time the meet ended.

Three of the jockeys banned by Tampa - Houghton, Jose Delgado, and Joseph Judice - were among the top 20 leading riders at Great Lakes this year. Houghton led the standings by a wide margin, with 185 wins from 724 mounts.

Officials of Great Lakes did not return phone calls on Wednesday.

Houghton, through his agent, Herson Sanchez, declined to comment about any aspect of the ban or investigation.

"I don't know anything about it, and Terry doesn't know anything about it," said Sanchez. "No one is telling us anything."

Sanchez repeated that he had no comment and then hung up the phone after being asked specifically about the Great Lakes race.

John Wayne, the executive director of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission, when asked about an investigation of wagers at Delaware Park last summer, said: "I can't say anything about it. At this point, no comment is my comment."

Bill Fasy, the general manager of Delaware Park, did not return a phone call.

Separately, Ken Dunn, the president of Calder Race Course, confirmed on Wednesday that the track had banned Jose Bracho, a jockey with one mount at the track this meet, but he declined to comment about the reason for the ban. Last week, Calder Race Course also banned Rene Douglas, a leading rider, without issuing an explanation.

It is unclear if the Calder bans are related to the Tampa Bay bans. Also banned from Tampa were Jorge Bracho, Derek Bell, Luis Castillo, and Ricardo Valdes.

Frank Fabian, the president of the TRPB - which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the racetrack trade group Thoroughbred Racing Associations - said that the bureau would have no comment until its investigation is complete.

"Consistent with its longstanding policy, TRPB does not comment regarding ongoing investigations," Fabian said.