An American jockey has been banned for eight days after being adjudged to have started a ‘physical confrontation’ with a rival in the weighing room.
Nik Juarez, who has won a stack of prestigious Grade 2 races in the United States, had to be separated from Paco Lopez as they headed to the scales following a race at Monmouth Park.
It followed a coming together in the 1m 1f fillies race at the famous track, with Lopez – who was aboard Midnight Diva – appearing to get too close to Juarez’s mount La Costa.
As Lopez closed ground, he went too wide on a bend – forcing La Costa to take evasive action and clip her own heels, which left her stumbling and out of the lead.
Although Juarez remained on board and his horse was okay, he was left with no choice but to pull her up and prematurely exit the race. Midnight Diva would go on to finish third, although she was subsequently disqualified by stewards.
No further details have been given about the nature of the physical confrontation, although authorities have seen fit to ban Juarez for eight days and fine him $500 – around £420 – for the events that followed the controversial renewal.
Lopez, for his part, was handed a five-day ban for careless riding, with the New Jersey Racing Commission commenting:
“After reviewing all the evidence and speaking to witnesses, the board of stewards hereby suspend jockey Nick Juarez for eight days and fine the sum of $500 for initiating a physical confrontation with another jockey.”
High Stakes, Short Fuses
It’s not the first time that Lopez has courted controversy. He has been banned for careless riding on at least four occasions since the start of 2019, with one of those suspensions lengthened by Gulfstream Park officials due to his repeat offending.
In March 2021, he was on the receiving end of another physical assault – Irad Ortiz Jr was fined $1,000 for losing his rag with the Mexican-American.
Given the high stakes in horse racing for a variety of stakeholders in a horse, you can easily see why the red mist descends when things don’t go to plan.
One of the most famous scraps between jockeys took place at the 2010 Breeders Cup, when Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano – both inducted into the sport’s hall of fame – had to be separated after coming to blows in the winner’s enclosure. They were fined $5,000 and $2,500 respectively, and Borel’s eye-popping rage ensured he would become a viral video sensation for all the wrong reasons.
Jockeys on UK soil have gone toe-to-toe as well. William Buick, a retained Godolphin rider, was once set upon by Joey Haynes after the aggressor claimed that Buick cut him up – hampering the progress of Haynes’ mount….a 2501/ outsider with one eye called Artisan Bleu.
Amazingly, jockeys have even exchanged unpleasantries mid-race – Erluis Vaz was suspended for as long as 200 days in 2010 when he leant over and punched Ademar Santos even as they guided their mounts towards the finishing line.