Luis Saez was suspended for 15 racing days after the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission determined that his ride aboard Maximum Security interfered with other riders in the Kentucky Derby.
Saez and his colt led nearly every step of the way of the race and finished first, but they were disqualified and placed 17th after Maximum Security appeared to jump a puddle on a wet, sloppy Churchill Downs racetrack.
The move set off a chain reaction that stopped the progress of horses behind them and prompted racing officials to move runner-up Country House to first place.
In the ruling, the commission said Saez was being punished for “failure to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course thereby causing interference with several rivals that resulted in the disqualification of his mount.”
The commission can fine or suspend jockeys for careless riding, and suspensions occur when racing officials determine they did something during a race that endangered their fellow riders.
Other racing states will honor the suspension.
Lawyers for Saez said they would appeal the decision to the commission and perhaps even in the court system. Kentucky horse racing rules allow appeals of jockey rulings, but not for the disqualification of a horse.
Last week, Maximum Security’s owners, Gary and Mary West, had their appeal of their colt’s disqualification denied within hours because Kentucky commission rules state that the stewards’ findings about what happens in a race “shall be final and not subject to appeal.”
After a 22-minute delay, Kentucky’s chief steward, Barbara Borden, and her colleagues found that Maximum Security had interfered with the progress of War of Will, who then impeded Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress.
In a seven-minute video, lawyers for Saez argued that he did nothing wrong and instead blamed War of Will jockey’s, Tyler Gaffalione, for initiating contact on the final turn that caused Maximum Security to veer.
Bill Mott, the trainer of Country House, said after the race and reiterated in a recent interview that it was a “young, green” Maximum Security who veered off course because of the puddle and crowd noise and that Saez did a good job of reasserting control.
“I don’t think he did anything wrong,” Mott said.
Saez, 26, who won the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday, could not be reached for comment.
Neither Maximum Security or Country House will compete Saturday at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. The Wests did not want Maximum Security to run on two weeks rest without a Triple Crown on the line. Last week, Country House caught a cold and is on antibiotics.
On Monday, Mott said Country House would be recovering for two to four weeks and would miss the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
Follow Joe Drape on Twitter @joedrape
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