A troubling photo of a Eric Chapa, 43, near the finish line at Sam Houston Race Park in Harris County, Texas, has left the veteran horse jockey facing felony charges.
Chapa was riding Quiet Acceleration on January 17, when he was photographed by a man contracted to take photos for promotional purposes. The image, which was circulated widely through the racing community, shows a small beige object in Chapa’s left hand - an illegal device that delivers an electrical shock to the horse, forcing them to go faster.
Chapa won $50,000 in that race, but he has since been charged with unlawful influence on racing. KPCR-TV reported Chapa came under scrutiny after he contacted the photographer and demanded the picture be removed from Race Park’s website.
Chapa denies the charges and said the image was edited because “someone was trying to frame him,” according to investigators.
This isn’t the first time Chapa has been in trouble with the authorities for his treatment of animals. State records show that 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. The records also show Chapa was fined $100 by the Commission in 2012 for hitting his horse in the face during a race at Sam Houston Race Park.
Chapa also spend 10 days in jail after pleading no content after being charged with beating a dog with a strap in 2002.