What Race Officials Noticed in a Photographer’s Finish-Line Photo of a Horse Race Led to the Jockey Facing Criminal Charges

On first glance you might miss it. But what race officials in Houston spotted in a photographer’s finish line-area picture of a horse race has led to the jockey facing felony charges.

So what was it?

Look closely at the photo below and see if you can tell:

Still wondering? If you look carefully, jockey Roman Eric Chapa is holding something in his left hand. According to them, it’s an electric shock device designed to make horses go faster but which are illegal. According to KPRC-TV, court documents reveal Chapa is being charged with unlawful influence on racing.

Video of the race from Saturday shows Chapa and his mount, Quiet Acceleration, making a late charge to win the race.

So how did officials notice the picture and the alleged impropriety in the first place? According to KPRC, they decided to use photos of the finish to promote the race. That’s when Chapa called and requested they be taken down:

Race Park officials said the photograph of Chapa was chosen to accompany a news release promoting the day’s races. Court records indicate that scrutiny of the photograph began shortly after Chapa contacted the photographer and demanded the picture be removed from the Race Park’s website.

Investigators said the photographer told them Chapa did not give him a specific reason as to why he wanted the photograph removed, only that “it was a bad picture.”

Still, Chapa claims he’s innocent and that the picture has been Photoshopped to “frame him.”

But as KPRC notes, this isn’t the first time Chapa has faced scrutiny for his racing:

State records show in 1994 Chapa was fined $2,500 and suspended by the State Racing Commission for using a nail to spur his horse during a race at Trinity Meadows. State records show Chapa was also fined $100 by the Commission in 2012 for hitting his horse in the face during a race at Sam Houston Race Park.

Harris County records show Chapa was sentenced in 2002 to 10 days in jail after pleading no contest to a charge of beating a dog with a strap.

According to a press release on the track’s website after the race, the win earned Chapa and horse $50,000.

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“We are pleased to see the swiftness with which the Texas Racing Commission, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Harris County District Attorney’s office have moved in their investigation of Mr. Chapa’s January 17th mount at Sam Houston Race Park,” the racetrack said in a statement. “These sorts of actions have no place in our sport, and are a disservice to the tens of thousands of people involved in our sport who play by the rules every day. We will continue to support this investigation in every way possible.”

It’s unclear if the race results were altered as a result of the charges.

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