Luis Saez, the jockey whose ride aboard Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security resulted in the first disqualification for interference in the 145-year history of the race, was suspended for 15 racing days by racing stewards in a decision announced by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Maximum Security’s disqualification occurred when the horse ventured wide of the rail leaving the second turn of the May 4 race, interfering with others in the 19-horse field before crossing the finish line first.
Saez was cited for “failure to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course,” the stewards said in their ruling, released Monday on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission website. The suspension is five times longer than the usual penalty for a riding infraction and covers May 23-27, May 30-June 2, June 6-9 and June 13-14.
An attorney for Maximum Security owners Gary and Mary West called the decision unfair. “It doesn’t sound like a lot to people when you say 15 days, but [racing] is all [jockeys] do,” Karen Murphy told the Courier-Journal. “[Saez] didn’t do anything wrong.”
Maximum Security had led for much of the race, but was dropped to 17th by stewards, who ruled that the horse had interfered with several horses, including Long Range Toddy and War of Will. Last week, Mark Casse, War of Will’s trainer, compared the horse’s path to that of a “drunk driver” down the stretch.
“He carried everybody out intentionally, and then he dives in,” Casse told the Courier-Journal. “It’s almost like following a drunk driver. You don’t know which direction he’s going to go. … People were taking shots at [War of Will’s jockey] Tyler [Gaffalione], saying he should have went inside or should have went outside. That really upset me. I went back and watched the entire race and noticed that we were bothered not just in the main event, but we were herded prior to that.”
Video shows that Saez did correct the horse, eventually pulling him back toward the rail, but Churchill Downs stewards Barbara Borden, Tyler Picklesimer and Butch Becraft, who handed down the disqualification, met Friday with Saez’s representatives and determined that a suspension was in order. Richard DePass, Saez’s agent, referred inquiries by the Daily Racing Form about a Saez appeal to his lawyer, Ann Oldfather.
Last week, she told the Courier-Journal that Saez had a “flawless ride” under “great duress” and that she would pursue “every appellate avenue.” Disciplinary actions against a jockey can be appealed to the commission and the courts, she said. The disqualification of a horse cannot. A request for a stay pending appeal must be filed within 10 days of the stewards’ ruling, according to the KHRC.
Maximum Security and Derby winner Country House will skip Saturday’s running of the Preakness, the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown.
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