LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jockey Luis Saez has been suspended 15 racing days by Churchill Downs stewards for his ride in the Kentucky Derby aboard Maximum Security, who crossed the wire first before being disqualified for causing interference leaving the second turn of the race. Saez was cited for “failure to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course,” the stewards cited in their ruling, which was released Monday on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission website.
The suspension, five times longer than the typical three-day riding-infraction penalty for jockeys, covers a 15-day period of racing that includes May 23-27, May 30-June 2, June 6-9, and June 13-14.
Maximum Security led for much of the Derby at Churchill, but was placed 17th by the stewards after being ruled to have impeded a few rivals, including Long Range Toddy, the original 17th-place finisher, when, nearing the stretch, he ducked out into their racing paths. This decision promoted Country House, a 65-1 longshot, into first from his original second-place position.
Video replays and photographs show Saez correcting his mount after the incident by pulling on Maximum Security’s left rein, after which the horse returned to a position more toward the inside.
“I thought I never put anybody in danger,” Saez said after the Derby. “My horse shied away from the noise of the crowd and may have ducked out a little.”
Churchill’s three stewards – Barbara Borden, Tyler Picklesimer, and Butch Becraft – met Friday with a representative of Saez, Louisville attorney Ann Oldfather, who presented edited video to the stewards in defense of her client.
This video, which also circulated online, directed blame of the incident toward seventh-place War of Will and jockey Tyler Gaffalione, arguing they caused contact by running up on the heels of Maximum Security, to which the latter then reacted by drifting out. The video further asserted that Country House, under Flavien Prat, drifted inward on the far turn, crowding rivals.
Unlike the disqualification of a horse, a jockey can appeal a riding-infraction ruling before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The commission denied an appeal May 6 that was brought by Gary and Mary West, the owners of Maximum Security, regarding the Derby disqualification, though the Wests could still pursue the matter in court.
“Luis does intend to appeal this unsupported suspension,” said Sean Deskins, an attorney in Oldfather’s law firm. “It’s very egregious.”
Borden, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission steward, deferred comment on the ruling to Susan West, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky’s Public Protection Cabinet.
A phone call placed to West was not immediately returned.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.