Jockey Mejia banned 10 years for using ‘buzzer’ at Monmouth Park

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Jockey Tomas Mejia has been banned 10 years for using an electronic device to win a race at Monmouth Park earlier this month.

In a ruling announced Thursday, the stewards at Monmouth Park also fined the 26-year-old Panamanian $5,000 and recommended that the New Jersey Racing Commission permanently revoke his jockey’s license. Tracks around the country will uphold the ban.

The stewards said in their ruling that Mejia used the electronic device in winning the seventh race at Monmouth on Sept. 3 with Strongerthanuknow. They said he had the prohibited device entering the winner’s circle and prior to dismounting.

The board said photographic evidence was presented at its hearing on Sept. 9. The jockey was taken off his mounts the following day. The original hearing was continued on Wednesday before a decision was made. It came on Mejia’s birthday.

During the suspension, which runs through Sept. 9, 2031, Mejia is denied access to all grounds under the jurisdiction of the state racing commission.

Mejia had 19 wins in 149 rides at Monmouth Park this season and was 11th among the jockeys in wins. For the year, he had 42 wins on 350 mounts.

Mejia started riding in the United States in 2018 and has 110 wins in 1,101 rides with earnings of $2.96 million.

369 horses nominated to compete in Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series during the early nomination period.

Each of the horses was nominated through a $600 payment to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. The Triple Crown opens May 6 with the Derby.

The number of nominated horses increased by 57 from last year’s total of 312. They include a record 37 horses based in Japan.

Among the notable horses is Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher.

Also among the predominantly male horses nominated was a filly named Hoosier Philly.

Brad Cox led all trainers with 38 horses nominated to the series. Pletcher was second with 36 horses, followed by Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek with 13 each. Chad Brown and Hideyuki Mori had 12 each.

Others nominated include Arabian Knight, Cave Rock and Newgate, all trained by Bob Baffert. He is currently banned by Churchill Downs Inc. through this year’s Derby, although Baffert is challenging his two-year punishment in federal court.

For the Derby, horses under the care of any suspended trainer may be transferred to another trainer and become eligible to earn Derby qualifying points as long as the transfer is done by Feb. 28.

Last year, Baffert transferred two horses to another trainer and both ran in the Derby, although neither was highly placed.

Horses that were not nominated to the Triple Crown series by the early deadline of Jan. 28 can make a late payment of $6,000 through March 27 to become eligible.

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.