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Jockey Convicted of Hiding in the Fog

March 15, 1991

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) _ A jockey was convicted Thursday of using the cover of dense fog to slip away from the pack and rejoin a horse race to claim an easy victory.

Sylvester Carmouche Jr., 31, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and was fined $250 plus court costs. The judge suspended 20 days of the jail sentence.

Carmouche’s attorney said they would appeal the sentence as excessive.

Landing Officer, with Carmouche aboard, initially was declared the winner in the race on Jan. 11, 1990 at Delta Downs. Track officials thought Landing Officer, a 23-1 long shot, had come within 1 1/2 seconds of a track record in winning the 11th race.

But the horse didn’t show signs of having run a long, strenuous race.

Carmouche was accused of slipping Landing Officer out of the mile-long race near the start, waiting in the fog until the eight other horses rounded the track and then charging back ahead of the pack near the final turn.

The margin of victory was estimated at between 23 to 25 lengths.

The Louisiana Racing Commission found him guilty and suspended him for 10 years. ″It ain’t right. I know I ain’t did it,″ Carmouche said after the commission voted.

State prosecutors took him to trial for misdemeanor attempted theft of $90. That was the difference between the $140 he would have been paid had his victory held up and the $50 each jockey was paid for just making the race.

Trial began Thursday before state District Judge E. Woody Thompson, who heard evidence without a jury. The courtroom was packed with people in cowboy boots, many of them obviously jockeys, some wearing racing stable jackets.

Among prosecution witnesses was James E. Broussard, a veterinarian who works for the Racing Commission and examined Landing Officer after the race.

He said the horse was ″fresh, rested, clean, not sweating and his bandages were clean.″

He said Something Strong, the horse that was eventually declared the winner was blowing hard, sweating profusely and his wraps were dirty.

Jockey Gerard Melancon testified that he thought he had a shot at victory in the race.

″You couldn’t see the grandstand from the far side of the track,″ Melancon testified.

Suddenly, he said, another horse appeared ahead of him, galloping along easily and then disappearing into the thick whiteness.

When the rest of the pack got to the finish line, the apparition had already won.

″I was very surprised,″ the jockey said.

Frank Mancha, a steward, testified that the investigation was started when a jockey came to him and complained: ″Mr. Frank, that horse didn’t go all the way around with the rest of us.″

He said the stewards checked the videotape but couldn’t see much because of the fog.

But the stewards agreed they had counted only eight horses on the first lap and nine at the finish.

Carmouche told the stewards his horse broke wide from the starting gate and was alone on the outside of the track.

But after 15 minutes, the stewards disqualified Landing Officer.