Hong Kong Stewards Don’t Fool Around With Jockeys Who Come Up Short At The Finish

by | 10.12.2016 | 1:30pm
The career of Y.T. Cheng, one of Hong Kong's most successful jockeys, may be finished

Hong Kong jockey Y.T. Cheng recently was suspended three months for failing to give his mount a full opportunity to win or get its best possible placing in a race. The race in question occurred on Sept. 18, when Master Gold finished fourth, beaten a neck for third in the Sha Tsui Handicap, when Cheng stood up just before the finish line after appearing to weave through traffic in the final furlong and while gaining ground on the leaders (and a loose horse, who had thrown his jockey at the start).

According to Hong Kong Jockey Club stewards it was the fourth time Cheng had been guilty of this infraction (and the third time since May 2012) in a very successful career that has seen him become the No. 2 local jockey in total wins.

When his suspension ends, HKJC officials said they will consider whether Cheng is fit to maintain a jockey's license.

There is more to this story than just “popping up” in the saddle before the finish. The charges against Cheng also said the rider failed to ride his mount “with sufficient purpose and vigor” at the 200-meter mark and “after passing the 150 meters, he did direct Master Gold in behind the running line of Good Fit, and in doing so shifted Master Gold away from clear and uninterrupted running.”

HKJC stewards are also looking into text messages reportedly sent by Cheng about his mount to people who were not the owner or trainer of Master Gold. That would be a violation of Hong Kong's Rules of Racing.

According to a headline in the South China Morning Post, Cheng's career as a jockey “appears doomed.”

HKJC stewards recognize the enormous mount of money wagered on races from Sha Tin and Happy Valley is contingent on the public having confidence in the integrity of the sport, and that, in large part, means jockeys giving their bests efforts all the way to the finish.

Around the same time Y.T. Cheng was being suspended, stewards at the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred meet noted that jockey Kent Desormeaux was “up in the saddle” in a photo finish of the second race on Sept. 25.

The Hall of Fame jockey was nosed out for third place on a filly named Peppermint Kitty, who battled on the lead throughout but tired in deep stretch for trainer Peter Miller and owner Altamira Racing Stable. Peppermint Kitty was the 1-2 favorite in the race, but someone clearly had made a sizable bet on the filly to show in the six-horse field: when she failed to hit the board the show prices told the story: the winner paid $8, $4.20, $9.20 across the board; the runner-up $9.80, $33; the third-place finisher $19.60.

Stewards minutes from that day state the following: “The photo finish for third place shows third place jockey MARTIN PEDROZA down on his horse … and Jockey Desormeaux ‘up in the saddle.' Jockey Desormeaux called the Los Alamitos Stewards after the race, pled guilty, and waived his right to a hearing.”

Five days later, Desormeaux was fined $500 for violating CHRB rule 1692 (requirements for horse, trainer and jockey – stood up before finish line). There was no reference to whether the Hall of Fame jockey had previously been penalized for similar infractions.

The fine meted out to Desormeaux seems inconsistent with stewards rulings from the same racetrack in July 2015, when jockey Brayan Pena received a seven-day suspension and Eswan Flores got three days – both for misjudging the finish line.

I'm not sure what motivates California Horse Racing Board stewards in determining the severity of penalties for riding infractions. But I hope they recognize the same thing Hong Kong stewards do: the betting public needs to have confidence in the integrity of the game.

Below is video of the stretch run from the two races in question:

  • Neigh Sayer

    Chengs ride didn’t seem nearly bad enough for a three month suspension. He seems to ease just one stride before the wire and don’t think he would have got fourth anyway. But since he’s being watched, that did him in.
    Kent’s ride was far worse and he eased up on the filly long before the wire. I understand why he does it, he can’t win, but that cost a great deal of money to people, and the $500 fine was far less than the damage done. And as he has a habit of doing it, the fine should be far more.

    • bhood

      I agree that Cheng’s horse probably doesn’t get there, but it was to get 3rd not 4th since one of the horses ahead had lost the rider. That was probably a big factor as it affected place and tri bets. Knowing you’ve been suspected in the past, why not just stay down and put yourself in that kind of position?

      It’s always tricky betting a horse Kent is on because he does this stuff all the time. He’s always giving up on horses and not finishing his rides. Not a fan of his at all.

    • Charles Smiith

      Any owner concerned about 2nd, 3rd or 4th money should not ride Kent Desormeaux. When he believes he’s beaten, he flys the white flag.

      • Neigh Sayer

        And the bettors as well, as a huge show play when up in smoke.

  • Charles Smith

    Desormeaux is a HOF rider, but he hasn’t ridden a horse out since Hector was a pup. There were howls of complaint about Kent D. not persevering as far back as the early 1990’s. When it comes to betting on a Desormeaux mount, you know what you’re in for…as soon as he thinks he’s beat, he wraps up on the horse. I’ve never been a bridge jumper, but I think ANYONE who makes a huge show wager on a horse ridden by Kent needs a check up from the neck up. As far as the Southern California Stewards go, they’ve had over 20 years to seriously address the issue of Desormeaux not riding horses out, why should anyone think they’ll take meaningful action now?

    • Peter Scarnati

      It truly says a lot that you chastise the bettor with the “check up from the neck up” remark. It’s as if players should know the game isn’t on the level.

      • Charles Smith

        Mr. Scarnati, if I were to insult horseplay erst, I’d be insulting myself. I’m a rebate player who puts meaningful sums into Pari Mutuel pools. I don’t know if you are a horse player or a pontificator, I will say that, in my opinion, any one who has followed Kent Desormeaux during his career and decides to bet a huge amount of money on one of his mounts to show is exercising horrible judgement and showing absolutely no respect for his/her bankroll.

    • Hamish

      Were there bridge jumper show bets made on Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes? I know he was eased, but I don’t recall the pools.

  • Andrew A.

    Certainly one of the most disgraceful chapters in CHRB History. And because Winner and Baedecker didn’t overrule the Stewards and hand out a just penalty when they should have makes it even worse.

    IMO it has to do with Peta Politics and the controversial whip rule. They full well knew what they had ruled the year before on Pena. Politics trump integrity at the CHRB AGAIN.

    Thanks for writing about it Ray.

    • Michael Castellano

      PETA has nothing to do with this. Whipping a tired horse is not the issue. Most riders can manage to ride out a very tired horse without the whip, which can be counterproductive in many cases and actually make the horse run slower. It’s when you stop riding and get up in the irons that the problems arise.

      • Andrew A.

        It goes to the last meeting at Del Mar Surfside with all the protesters and people who spoke at the meeting some asking for Horse Racing to be stopped altogether. Chairman Winner said he does donate to Peta.

        You may not see it but this is definitely what’s going on. It explains the 7 days Pena got the year before and the $500 only for Kent.

  • Peter Scarnati

    Just another fine example of the rank and seemingly wanton disregard for the American betting public by both the regulated and regulators.
    A true shame, but not a surprise. This kind of behavior goes on all the time. The game has little to no integrity.

    • longshot

      Was it a superfecta? Cause if he rode the horse he would only been 4th

      • Peter Scarnati

        Ummm. Don’t know if there was a superfecta. — don’t matter — he would have been THIRD.

        • longshot

          Yeah you’re right , I was counting the loose horse. My mistake

  • Tinky

    There is a very well known TV personality who used to loudly berate riders back when he was a more anonymous gambler/fan. I seem to recall cries along the lines of “Why don’t you just break into my house and steal my TV while you’re at it?”

    Well, in the case of KD, with this type of ride, such complaints are actually warranted. It’s disgraceful that he has been allowed to get away with it for so long, without any meaningful, cumulative punishment.

    • Michael Castellano

      Racing interests in the U.S. have a chance, from what I’ve read recently, to tap into potentially huge Asian (Japan?) betting interests. But if the sport doesn’t clean up its act that may prove futile in the long run. Even with billions of potential dollars at stake, the various racing bodies rermain either corrupt or clueless,

      • Steve

        So true, they are not going to put up with this nonsense in Asia

  • Ky Race Fan

    Maybe it is time for U.S racing to follow the lead in Hong Kong. Kent is a fine example of not riding a horse out and has been doing this for years. They got rid of Flores real quick. WAKE UP STEWARDS!!!!

  • Victor C

    In Kent’s defense the filly switches leads which is sometimes a sign of relieving stress from one leg to the other because one leg is in pain and then he officially stood up…yes it looks bad to the common eye and I can understand the frustration but sometimes there is an underlying reason. These jockeys health and livelihood are at risk and if they feel the horse and themselves are at risk they have to take care of themselves. Let me remind you the filly won for 20k and dropped for 8k. If she was sound she wouldn’t of been in that race.

    • Tinky

      a) he has done this far too many times previously to deserve the benefit of the doubt

      b) did he claim that he felt something was wrong with the filly? NO. He “pled guilty”

    • Steve

      There is no defense for what Kent does, none. He has probably done it 50 times on 50 different horses. The jockey fee is MUCH less for 2nd or 3rd as opposed to win, which probably leads to his behavior, but he is not showing any respect to the public, the industry, the owners and the trainers as there are Trifectas, Superfectas, Hi 5’s, Show betting and the monetary difference between 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th is substantial for the owners. He would have had a VERY short career in Hong Kong

    • tony a

      So if thats the case it shouldn’t pass the vet but Kent has a penchant for stiffing favorites.

    • Charles Smith

      Your point is well taken, but over a long career, Desormeaux has done this with all types of horses at all levels, from Graded stakes races to bottom claiming, horses that seemed to be at risk for a flat tire and horses that looked splendid on the track.

  • Jockey 33

    The worst one is Paco Lopez.

    • worldb.free

      I don’t blame the riders as much as the officials. Begin by giving warnings. Then 3-5 days. If that doesn’t change things, it is then the long suspensions begin. But in the USA, there are few rules and therefore few fans.

      • Ky Race Fan

        Well Said! Make rules and enforce them with suspensions. A five hundred fine is a joke to these guys. Fans are leaving the sport for these reasons.

  • McGov

    The ride in Hong Kong was iffy looking….throw in the phone calls he made about the horse and it gets worse in a hurry.
    Clearly Kent stopped on the horse and likely thought he was catching third…even while coasting….and nearly did. But, he didn’t. Likely thought how perfect of a 3rd place finish as he used JUST the right amount of horse…not too much.
    Kent gets pretty too often with horses. Like a golfer than must not only get the ball in the hole but must do so with flair….dramatic finishes etc. Or sometimes, no finish or interest.
    This problem absolutely must be confronted head on. Riders must ride their best….under ALL circumstances. How can they possibly forget that our sport is being gambled on in very big ways? That gambling is the blood supply for everything?? Confidence in fair play is key.
    However, IMO, Hong Kong penalty is too strong unless he stiffed the horse and is on the take and they can prove it.
    Can’t see Kent involved in corruption….but he should be sitting for a week at least.

  • I’m watching

    Not riding out at the finish ? Which is worse ?
    Not riding the whole race.
    I have seen too many times……..horse broke well….taken back and “never even tried”
    through the rest of the race.
    Rosario rode many even-money favorites in that manner…..stiffing ?
    Check the past year, or so.

    • tony a

      Or what about diving down to the dead rail instead of keeping outside path.

  • vinceNYC

    KD has done this for years…..The first example seemed marginal but if it has happened b4 then history is attached………..KD stopped riding at the 1/16 pole

  • OklaHandicapper

    What Kent did was wrong. That aside, bridge-jumping is the stupidest bet you can make: you’re risking a dollar to make a dime in profit. Bridge-jumping is for rich casuals with more money than brains.

  • bocapunter

    There will never be a clear answer, when betting is involved, as to how hard a jockey has to ride a horse that he perceives is spent.

  • worldb.free

    He got caught and now he has a three month suspension. Desormeaux didn’t persevere in his race at Los Alamitos. Both of these are the right call as placings were involved. It is not the same as no longer “beating a horse to death” who had the lead for five furlongs but is now running seventh and fading. Hong Kong has a much better product, a viable sport with tens of thousands who actually still go to the races on a regular basis, and this suspension is ONE of the reasons why.

  • Mack

    if Hong Kong is the gold standard, the US is somewhere in the middle. The UK and Ireland authorities are far more lax in their effort to ensure that everybody “is trying” all of the time. TV pundits over there even congratulate connections on “landing a touch”, as they say, when a horse shows massive form reversal after taking big money out of the blue.

  • HorsePower Racing

    Racing Integrity in HKG is a shining example of how to do things RIGHT! Just wondering how it is that the LEADING TRAINER in HKG strikes at 18.75 % – the win % in NA would generally put you in about 55th spot ? Guess it must just be a result of the system of allocating horses to trainers ? ? ? ?

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