Jockey Tomas Mejia has won a career-best 12 percent of his races this year while amassing $1,064,632 in earnings — only $73,166 less than he made all of 2020. Monmouth Park uncovered the secret to Mejia’s ascension, and it netted the 26-year-old Panamanian a 10-year suspension and $5,000 fine.
On Thursday the stewards at Monmouth Park found Mejia used a buzzer-like electronic device during a Sept. 3 race at their New Jersey track earlier this month. Mejia’s horse, Strongerthanuknow, won that race.
Mejia’s punishment wasn’t limited to Monmouth Park’s banishment and fine. Monmouth Park also announced it would recommend a permanent revocation of Mejia’s license to the New Jersey Racing Commission, and tracks across the U.S. will also ban Mejia through Sept. 9, 2031.
Since the beginning of his U.S. jockey career in 2018, Mejia — who’s earned $2.96 million over that time — has competed in 1,101 races and won 110 of them. He earned his 100th career win at Monmouth Park in June and has won 19 of his 149 races at the venue this year alone. This season saw Mejia collect 42 wins, 33 runner-ups and 45 third-place finishes.
Photographs from the race in question showed Mejia with the electronic device, effectively sealing his fate in the board’s eyes. The board reviewed those photos on Sept. 9 then gave Mejia a short-term ban the next day.
Horse-racing publisher Ray Paulick noted this was the second instance in which a track photographer caught a jockey with an illegal electronic device. Roman Chapa — who died in a bush-track accident earlier this year — faced felony charges in 2017 after he was caught shocking his horse with a buzzer two years prior.
Monmouth Park announced the severity of Mejia’s suspension and fine on Thursday, the second day of its hearing. It was Mejia’s 26th birthday — and one he’ll soon hope to forget.