|24 Sep 2005 20:21:47|
|Weight doesn't matter - or does it?|
How on earth did this happen?
Key NYRA Officials Indicted For Jockeying Weights
Two key track officials at the New York Racing Association (NYRA) have
been indicted for their role in a scheme that falsely reported the weight of
jockeys participating in thoroughbred horse races at state-owned tracks.
The indictment unsealed in Saratoga County Court alleges that the two
officials - the Clerk of Scales and Assistant Clerk of Scales - allowed
jockeys who were as much as 15 pounds over their assigned racing weight to
participate in certain races. State racing regulations require disclosure of
jockey weights because of the potential effect on race outcomes. The fact
that the jockeys were overweight was not disclosed in those races.
"These two officials basically had one job to do and that was to
ensure that the weight of the jockeys was recorded accurately and then
disclosed to bettors," Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said. "Instead, they
misled the public and compromised the integrity of races run by NYRA."
The indictment charges NYRA Clerk of Scales Mario Sclafani, 48, of
Yorktown Heights and Assistant Clerk of Scales Braulio Baeza, 65, of Elmont
with 291 counts, including scheme to defraud in the first degree; conspiracy
in the fifth degree; falsifying business records in the first degree;
tampering with a sports contest in the second degree; grand larceny in the
third degree and other charges. If convicted of the charges, the two men
could face up to seven years in state prison.
Baeza was the winning jockey in the 1963 Kentucky Derby and a two-time
winner of the Eclipse Award which recognizes racing's top rider.
Sclafani was arraigned Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to the charges
before Saratoga County Court Judge Jerry Scarano. Baeza will be arraigned on
The rules of thoroughbred horse racing in New York State require that
the weight each horse carries be announced publically so that bettors can
make informed wagers. Even a one pound difference between the published
weight and the actual weight must be announced to the public prior to the
race, and horse owners may replace a jockey if he is more than two pounds
over the designated weight for their horse. Any jockey who weighs more than
five pounds over his designated weight must be disqualified, according to
The indictment alleges that the defendants weighed jockeys both before
and after each race and were responsible for enforcing these rules and
further that they conspired with five prominent jockeys--Robby Albarado,
Heberto Castillo, Jr., Jose Santos, Ariel Smith, and Cornelio Velasquez--on
67 occasions from June 23, 2004 to Dec. 15, 2004, to allow them to ride when
they weighed anywhere from seven to 15 pounds over the weight announced for
According to the charges the questionable races with overweight
jockeys occurred at all three NYRA tracks: Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct.
Bettors placed more than $300,000 in "win bets" on horses in these races.
However, individuals placing those bets did not know that the horses they
picked were being ridden by overweight jockeys.
Horse racing experts consulted by state investigators all agreed that
adding extra weight slows down a horse and clearly could have affected the
outcome of close races.
The indictment alleges that in order to cover up the fact that jockeys
were overweight, the defendants made false entries in official track
records. The jockeys themselves do not face criminal sanctions, but the
Attorney General is referring the matter to the New York State Racing and
Wagering Board for a review of the jockeys' licenses to race in New York
The indictment is the result of a year-long investigation conducted by
the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force together with the State
Police and the New York State Comptroller. The investigation began when NYRA
trustees, in a newly formed oversight committee, informed the Attorney
General's office of suspicious activity involving the Clerk of the Scales.