Chapa Charged With Felony for Alleged ‘Buzzer’ Use

by | 01.26.2015 | 5:17pm
The photo that led to Roman Chapa's five-year suspension and criminal charges (Coady Photography)

Jockey Roman Chapa has been charged with a felony by the Harris County district attorney in connection with his alleged use of an illegal electrical device while riding Quiet Acceleration to victory in the Richard King Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 17.

Chapa, a 43-year-old resident of Big Spring, Texas, is accused on state charges of unlawful influence on racing after an investigation by Jeffrey Green of the Texas Department of Public Safety. The investigation hinged largely on a photograph, taken by official track photographer Jack Coady, showing what appears to be an object in the jockey's left hand. As of late Monday afternoon, Chapa had not been taken into custody but bail was set at $10,000.

Questions about the photograph and an investigation by the Texas Racing Commission were first reported in the Paulick Report.

The photograph appeared on the Sam Houston Race Park website in conjunction with the stakes result and accompanying story. According to the probable cause complaint, Chapa contacted Coady in an effort to have it removed the day after the race. “Coady told me that the Defendant (Chapa) told him that it was a bad picture and to get it off the website,” Green wrote in the complaint. “Coady told me that he was not sure what the Defendant was referring to. Coady told me that the Defendant sent him a text message and asked him to remove the photo from the Sam Houston Race Park's website.”


Green interviewed Chapa Jan. 19 and said the jockey denied contacting Coady and “stated he had not seen the photograph” prior to being interviewed by police. Coady's cell phone, however, showed a text message from Chapa's telephone with a copy of the photo, according to the complaint. “The Defendant also gave me verbal consent to look at his cellphone,” Green wrote, “and I observed a copy of the photograph in his recently deleted files. The Defendant did not have an answer as to why it was on his phone when asked.”

Chapa told Green the photograph had been “photo-shopped and someone was trying to frame him” and that he “did not have anything” in his left hand “despite what the picture showed.”

Green said  he also met with Quiet Acceleration's owner/trainer Danny Pish, Quiet Acceleration's assistant trainer, the assistant starter, Chapa's jockey agent, outrider, the track photographer and Chapa's valet. All stated they were unaware that Chapa had used a prohibited device aboard Quiet Acceleration until “the picture started floating around the racing community.”

Green's probable cause complaint states that Chapa “unlawfully intentionally and knowingly, with the intent to influence or affect a horse race, use an electrical shocking device designed to increase the speed of and unnaturally stimulate and excite a race animal, namely, a race horse named Quiet Acceleration.”

An illegal electrical device that can be used to stimulate horses

An illegal electrical device that can be used to stimulate horses

On Jan. 19, Texas Racing Commission stewards summarily suspended Chapa pending an investigation and hearing. He was taken off his mounts that day and has not ridden since the Jan. 17 incident. Chapa won with five of his seven mounts during the first two nights of the Sam Houston Race Park meeting.

Chapa was suspended nine months in 1994 in Texas for using a nail on a Quarter horse during a futurity trial and banned five years in 2007 at Sunland Park  in New Mexico for use of an electrical device – also known as a machine, battery or buzzer. He received a $100 fine in 2012 for striking his horse in the face with a whip.

Unrelated to horse racing, Chapa served 10 days in jail in 2002 after a plea agreement that reduced felony charges of cruelty to animals to a misdemeanor. He was arrested after a Dec. 14, 2001, incident in which  police said he “knowingly tortures an animal, namely a dog, by beating it with a strap.”

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