The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has suspend Maximum Security jockey Luis Saez for 15 racing days after determining he interfered with other riders in the controversial 2019 Kentucky Derby.
One day after race stewards met with the jockeys involved in the inquiry that led to Maximum Security’s disqualification, the commission announced that Saez will be suspended for 15 racing days.
The KHRC cited "failure to controI his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course thereby causing interference with several rivals that resuIted in the disqualification of his mount," in its ruling against Saez.
No other jockeys in last weekend's Kentucky Derby will face punishment, according to KHRC.
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Unlike the disqualification of a horse, disciplinary sanctions against a jockey can be appealed to the commission and the courts.
Attorneys for Saez said they intend to appeal his suspension.
According to KHRC's website, a "request for stay pending appeal" must be filed with 10 days of the stewards' ruling.
Jockey Luis Saez who rode Maximum Security looks on as his win was reversed following the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Photo: Matt Kryger/IndyStar)
Karen Murphy, an attorney for Maximum Security owners Gary and Mary West, told the Courier Journal the decision is wrong and unfair to Saez.
"It doesn't sound like a lot to people when you say 15 days, but (racing) is all (jockeys) do," Murphy said. "(Saez) didn't do anything wrong."
The commission can fine or suspend jockeys for intentional wrongdoing or careless riding. Stewards also can require education for the jockeys.
KHRC suspension ruling of Luis Saez
Maximum Security crossed the finish line first in the 145th Kentucky Derby but was eventually disqualified and dropped to 17th when stewards ruled he drifted out of his running lane and impeded the progress of other horses in the race.
After the race, chief steward Barbara Borden said Maximum Security was disqualified for interfering with the progress of War of Will, who in turn interfered with Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress.
The Wests, owners of Maximum Security, appealed the stewards’ decision earlier this week, but the KHRC swiftly denied it, citing its regulations, which state that stewards’ findings as to matters that occur during a race "shall be final and not subject to appeal."
The Wests have insisted Saez did nothing wrong during the Run for the Roses, instead blaming War of Will jockey Tyler Gaffalione for initiating contact on the final turn which caused Maximum Security to veer.
Gary West has indicated he plans to file a lawsuit, but he has not done so yet.
The announced suspension for Saez, a 26-year-old native of Panama, came after his attorneys provided a nearly 7-minute video Friday to KHRC stewards that they say exonerates him of blame in his horse's disqualification.
Since suffering heartbreak at Churchill Downs, Saez has kept busy by winning several races at Belmont Park in New York. He rode Global Campaign to a first-place finish in the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes on Saturday.
West has said Maximum Security is not running in the upcoming Preakness Stakes. Country House will also not appear in the Preakness in Baltimore this Saturday.
The suspension throws uncertainty over whether Saez will be able to compete on a different horse in the Preakness.
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