Luis Saez told stewards Maximum Security reacted to ‘something’; backed by other Derby jockeys
Six days after his winning horse’s Kentucky Derby disqualification, jockey Luis Saez told the race’s stewards that Maximum Security was “reacting about something” when he veered into the path of other horses.
“In that moment,” Saez said, “I was not really sure (if it was) the crowd … for people taking (a) picture inside or somebody hit him from behind. The thing was he jumped at that moment.”
Saez phoned into a May 10 meeting in which the three race stewards and several jockeys from the race reviewed tape of the incident, according to audio of the meeting obtained by the Courier Journal. In attendance were Saez’s attorney, Ann Oldfather, as well as jockeys Tyler Gaffalione (who rode War of Will), Jon Court (Long Range Toddy), Chris Landeros (Bodexpress) and Julien Leparoux, who rode Master Fencer but was said to be attending the meeting to represent Country House’s Flavien Prat.
Each of the jockeys in the May 10 meeting told stewards they did not believe Saez was at fault for Maximum Security's disqualification, which came after stewards ruled his move impeded the progress of other horses, most notably War of Will. The ruling awarded second-place finisher Country House the victory.
Maximum Security’s ownership unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission before filing a lawsuit to have the race’s original order of finish restored.
Two days after the May 10 meeting, the stewards gave Saez a relatively harsh suspension of 15 race days “for failure to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course.” Saez has appealed the suspension. No other jockeys in the May 10 meeting were suspended.
Connections of Maximum Security have pointed to a video to help bolster an argument that their horse’s sudden move was caused by contact from behind by War of Will.
Video of the Kentucky Derby 2019 race that jockey Luis Saez's representatives say show a difference cause of the horses bumping.
Provided by representatives of Luis Saez, Louisville Courier Journal
Gaffalione has disputed that publicly and did so during the May 10 meeting.
In speaking with stewards, Saez said that he wasn’t sure what caused Maximum Security to veer out of his lane and that his immediate thought was to restrain him as quickly as possible.
Oldfather at one point questioned Saez about what he felt at that moment.
“What I felt was he put his ears up like he (was) reacting about something,” Saez said. “And then, I feel like he jumped. It went from the back of his butt. He was like, ‘Ow,’ … and I don't know. My thing was (to) correct him right away. I don't really want to go way out and drop somebody or hurt somebody. That was not my intention.”
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Gaffalione immediately responded to Saez’s statement.
“I was already outside of Luis at that point,” Gaffalione said. “You can see he brings the horse back in. He's in his own path, and there's nobody behind him. And all of a sudden, he switches out. There is no contact made. My horse never bobbled, never made any stumble. So it's impossible for me to clip heels with him. Because if anybody would've been affected, it would've been me. And I would've ended up on the ground.
“So that statement is a little out there. But once again, I'm not blaming Luis. His horse saw something. He spooked from it.”
Leparoux and Landeros at that point agreed with Gaffalione that Saez did not act deliberately — but that War of Will was not to blame.
“I think Tyler didn’t clip heels,” Leparoux said. “… That didn’t make Maximum Security go out. I think he just got spooked. Something we probably will never know. But Luis tried his best. You can see how he tries to correct him.”
“This was the horse. You can see it,” Landeros said. “I mean, we ride horses day in and day out. He switched leads on him, and it’s hard. Especially, at that point of the turn, it's really hard. The turns here are a little tighter than normal tracks.”
Court and Gaffalione, however, offered differing accounts of what transpired prior to Maximum Security’s foul. Court said War of Will twice bumped Long Range Toddy while trying to advance into a seam about the time that Maximum Security began to veer out.
Related: Saez's suspension sends a message — the rules are different for the Derby
See also: Is it time for the Kentucky Derby to stop running 20 horses?
Gaffalione replied that he never made contact with Court’s horse and the spot had opened up because Maximum Security had “drifted a little bit” and been corrected prior to the move that resulted in the disqualification.
“I advanced into that space, and that's when it comes, everything happens,” Gaffalione said. “I never pushed on Jon, never forced my way out. The spot opened up, and I took it.”
“Not to disagree with the other three riders that Luis Saez's horse was getting out on his own accord, for whatever reason. We can try to analyze that, time on in, and we hear several reasons,” Court said. “… But also, I'd like to reiterate that prior to that action taking place, I will debate and argue with Tyler not bumping me, because there are angles that we can still look into where he did bump me before this incident to create the seam — to put the head in and create the hole … which was fine. It happens in racing all the time. That was no big deal. But that's about the time when he had moved into that position is where Luis' horse did start to veer out.”
Chief steward Barbara Borden asked the jockeys that if War of Will “goes up in this spot … and (Maximum Security) doesn’t veer out, what happens?”
“We all go about our business,” replied Court, and the other jockeys agreed.
Following that, Saez was asked if he had anything else he’d like to say. He reportedly said again that he never intended for Maximum Security to veer out.
“I feel like I'd given him a clean ride,” Saez said. “At this point, that thing, I never want to happen. It's pretty bad because it was a big deal race.”
Horse racing reporter Jason Frakes breaks down controversial stretch of the Kentucky Derby that saw Maximum Security disqualified.
Louisville Courier Journal
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