Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jockey sues Tampa Bay Downs over ban

OLDSMAR — Former riding champion Derek Bell has filed a civil lawsuit claiming Tampa Bay Downs, track vice president and general manager Peter Berube and others have interfered with his ability to make a living.

Bell is one of seven jockeys who were banned from Tampa Bay Downs in 2006 during a race-fixing investigation. He is the only one who has filed suit.

The 21-page suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa. Other defendants are the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, the industry's investigative agency; agency president Franklin Fabian; and an unnamed bureau agent.

"Tampa Bay Downs' actions have prevented Mr. Bell from making a living as a jockey at some of the most prestigious tracks around the country," said Joe Tucker, a St. Petersburg native who is representing Bell for the Louisville, Ky., law firm Dinsmore & Shohl.

Bell seeks a permanent injunction lifting the ban and authorizing him to ride again at the Downs; compensatory damages; punitive damages; and a jury trial on all issues that can be tried. A jury trial in September 2012 is on the docket.

The Downs and the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau declined to comment.

Bell, the Downs' leading rider in 2000-01, was banned on Dec. 19, 2006, by Berube, whose father, Paul, is a retired bureau president. The other jockeys banned were Jorge Bracho, Luis Castillo, Jose Delgado, Terry (T.D.) Houghton, Joseph Judice and Ricardo A. Valdes.

The suit says Berube publicly announced that Bell would not be permitted at the Downs because of an "ongoing investigation" being conducted by the racing bureau and that Bell would be refused access to the facility "for an indefinite period of time based on its rights as a property owner."

The suit also says Fabian and a bureau agent questioned Bell that day about a Downs race earlier that year. Ultimately, Fabian told Bell he would no longer be permitted to ride at the Downs.

Also mentioned is that Fabian made statements indicating Bell was involved in a criminal scheme to fix races; Bell was not a target of a criminal investigation.

"The most important fact from our perspective is that there is a statutory requirement that Mr. Bell be given notice and a hearing when he's been accused of prearranging the outcome of a race," Tucker said. "He was never given the right to defend himself. He was never shown what evidence they had against him. And that's just a fundamental American right that we believe Mr. Bell was denied."

In an effort to clear his name, the suit says, Bell arranged to appear before a grand jury that convened in Detroit to investigate race fixing at the Downs. But an August 2008 letter signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Morris stated that Bell was not a target. That case, in which Valdes was indicted, was investigated by special agents of the FBI, with assistance from the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. The Downs was made aware of the letter, the suit says.

"Despite that information, Tampa Bay Downs refused to let (Bell) ride," Tucker said.

Bell, who rides primarily at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., has an occupational license to ride in Florida. The suit says a "red flag" was placed on his computer records at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

"The licensing system is connected to other state agencies around the country," Tucker said. "Many of these other states and other tracks would not let Mr. Bell ride as a result of Tampa Bay Downs' actions."

MORE RACING: The Downs has six $75,000 stakes on today's Florida Cup Day card. … The $80,000 Distance Classic, Derby Lane's richest stakes for greyhounds, is tonight's Race 10 (10:11 p.m.) at St. Petersburg.

Jockey sues Tampa Bay Downs over ban 04/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 8, 2011 9:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside


    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)
  2. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win


    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

    Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays celebrates as teammate Michael Martinez slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Minnesota Twins during the 14th inning.
  3. Rays journal: Erasmo Ramirez ready to start a day after closing game

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Erasmo Ramirez was on the mound to finish Sunday's 15-inning marathon win over the Twins and will start tonight's game against the Rangers.

    The Rays’ Erasmo Ramirez throws 12 pitches in the 15th inning against the Twins to earn the save then says after the game that he’s ready to make his scheduled start against the Rangers: “My arm feels good.”
  4. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  5. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.