Kentucky Derby

Kentucky stewards suspend Maximum Security jockey for causing Derby disqualification

Kentucky racing stewards on Monday issued a ruling against jockey Luis Saez for his ride on Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

Saez was suspended for 15 racing days, from May 23 through June 14 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.”

No other jockey was disciplined. The racing commission had no comment.

Saez’s attorney, Ann Oldfather of Louisville, said in a statement they plan to appeal the suspension as soon as possible.

“The stewards’ ruling is completely unsupported and the suspension is unsupportable,” Oldfather said in the statement. “We look forward to the opportunity to present proof that Luis is not at fault and should not have been suspended or disciplined for any reason … We believe the decision is wrong and look forward to presenting the appeal.”

Saez has 10 days to file an appeal. Typically, an appeal will mean that the suspension goes on hold until after the appeal is heard.

In the Derby, Maximum Security crossed the finish line first but then was disqualified after stewards ruled that the horse interfered with other horses in the race. Country House was elevated to first place.

On Friday, Oldfather gave the stewards a video replay of the race highlighting portions that she alleged showed another horse, War of Will, ridden by jockey Tyler Gaffalione, was responsible for Maximum Security veering wide into the path of other horses in the field. It’s unclear if the stewards viewed the video she gave them.

Oldfather said that she attended the official video replay session with the stewards on Saez’ behalf. He was available by phone.

In her statement Monday, Oldfather said that the other jockeys in the room said that Saez was not at fault. Oldfather and Maximum Security’s owners, Gary and Mary West, have blamed War of Will for causing Maximum Security to veer out after the horses’ legs collided. War of Will’s trainer, Mark Casse, has defended his jockey, alleging that Saez and Maximum Security cut War of Will off twice.

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Both Country House and Maximum Security announced after the Derby that they would skip the Preakness.

The Wests have said they plan to contest the disqualification in court after the racing commission denied an appeal of the ruling.

Reaction to the suspension was swift on social media. Some called it overly harsh.

“Saez suspended 15 days might be the biggest joke of the entire Derby Debate. The guy did everything right, soon as his horse moved he corrected it the best and fastest way possible . No matter if he was stepped on or spooked the rider did everything right in correcting him #FBG,” Keeneland Dan, a local handicapper, said on Twitter.

Hall of Fame jockeys Gary Stevens and Julie Krone also criticized the suspension. “Say what????????TERIBBLE!!!” Stevens tweeted. “Maybe the 3 traditional days but yikes!!” Krone replied.

But others defended the punishment as appropriate.

“Stature of the race often comes into play in these matters. Dettori given a month for a Melbourne Cup incident. Buick given 6 weeks for reckless riding in HK Cup. This is on low end, and I would argue, based on Saez not purposely directing his horse out, just failing to control,” tweeted Pat Cummings, executive director of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation.