The Canterbury Park board of stewards gave its maximum penalty to jockey Denny Velazquez, assessing a $10,000 fine and one-year suspension Tuesday for possession of an illegal electrical device and a loaded firearm on the grounds of the Shakopee track. The stewards also referred the matter to the Minnesota Racing Commission for additional sanctions, recommending a $50,000 fine and five-year ban.
The ruling by the three-member board said the electrical device and gun were found in Velazquez’s vehicle by racing commission investigators during a July 20 search at Canterbury. Velazquez, who was immediately barred from the track, was its third-leading rider with 20 victories and $337,791 in purse earnings at the time of his suspension.
Electrical devices, commonly called “buzzers,” are used to shock horses to make them run faster. Minnesota law prohibits the possession of “any electrical or mechanical device or other appliance, other than an ordinary riding whip, that could be used for the purpose of stimulating a horse or affecting its speed in a race or workout.” The ruling also cited Minnesota law regarding carrying a weapon without a permit.
Steve May, executive director of the Minnesota Racing Commission, said he expects Velazquez to appeal the sanctions. The jockey was notified of the ruling Tuesday morning and has five days to file an appeal.
Velazquez did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The $10,000 fine and one-year suspension, which would run through July 20, 2021, is the most severe penalty the board of stewards can assess under Minnesota law. The $50,000 fine and five-year ineligibility for a Class C racing license is the maximum the racing commission can give.
Tuesday’s ruling said the stewards entered nine exhibits and heard testimony from Velazquez at an Aug. 4 hearing. The stewards called the infractions “serious violations that call into question the honesty and integrity of horse racing and the safety, health and welfare of the participants and the general public at Canterbury Park.”
May said last month the racing commission had contacted Scott County law enforcement, which could pursue criminal charges against Velazquez including cruelty to animals. Tampering with a racehorse, including through the use of an electrical device, is a felony in Minnesota. As of Tuesday, online court records showed no charges have been filed regarding the incident.
Velazquez, 26, has won 47 of 265 starts and $624,813 in purses this year. Third in the jockey standings at Arizona’s Turf Paradise last winter, he has 533 victories and $9 million in purse earnings over a 10-year career.