The prolific jockey Tomas Mejia has been banned from riding in America after it was revealed he used an electronic ‘stunner’ to win a race at Monmouth Park.
The Panamanian, who has amassed career prize money just shy of $3 million, was photographed holding the prohibited device during the September 3 renewal. His mount, Strongerthanuknow, went on to win after a late charge for the line after entering the final straight in third place.
Later, a video was shared on Twitter that appears to show him handing an object to a member of staff immediately after the race.
Rider, Mejia clearly passes ‘something’ to person with the blue bucket. (see video)
A short 5 furlong race on a pleasant day.
Blue bucket guy quickly sponges Strongerthanuknow neck as if it ran a gutbuster 12 furlong race in hot weather! (left neck is where it would have buzzed) pic.twitter.com/8SipfRD3B5
— Sharon McKay? (@WingedCharm) September 16, 2021
The investigating stewards at Monmouth Park confirmed that the device could be used to ‘shock’ a horse into running faster via an electric current, and that Mejia had it in his possession immediately after the race and prior to dismounting.
However, because they could not prove beyond all doubt that the jockey had actually used the device, the final result will stand with Strongerthanuknow confirmed as the winner.
After presenting their evidence in a hearing on September 9, authorities removed the jockey from all of his booked rides before handing him a ten-year suspension and a fine of $5,000.
The 26-year-old is likely to be banned from all racetracks under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Racing Commission, while it is likely that other venues around the country will follow suit. Monmouth have recommended that Mejia’s jockeys’ licence is permanently revoked as well, although they don’t have the authority to enforce as such.
A noted rider in the United States with 110 career victories, Mejia has racked up 42 wins from 350 starts this year, including 19 at Monmouth Park.
Cracking the Whip
Racing authorities in the United States have made their rules on whip use far more stringent in recent times, and as a consequence some jockeys are turning to ‘alternative’ means to find their edge out on the track.
At Monmouth Park, which falls under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Racing Commission, whips can only be used as a safety precaution – numerous jockeys have been suspended or fine for their misuse this year.
And Mejia isn’t the first jockey to get caught using a buzzer in the US. Roman Chapa was banned for five years and fined $100,000 for his use of an electric shocking device at Sam Houston Race Park back in 2015. The veteran was photographed with the buzzer in his left hand in the race, but later claimed it was Photoshopped in an attempt to frame him.
In 2020, Denny Velazquez was handed a one-year ban and fined $10,000 by stewards at Canterbury Park. They allegedly found him to be in possession of a similar electrical device and a loaded gun when searching his vehicle.