Jockeys reportedly told Kentucky Derby stewards Maximum Security's Luis Saez wasn't at fault

Jockey Luis Saez is seen at Churchill Downs Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Saez rides Maximum Security in the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 4. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Jockey Luis Saez is still serving a suspension leading into the Belmont Stakes. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

All four jockeys who attended the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards meeting in the aftermath of the controversial Kentucky Derby said Luis Saez, jockey of Maximum Security, was not at fault, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Monday.

The Courier-Journal obtained audio from the May 10 meeting in which officials, jockeys and Saez’s attorney reviewed tape from Maximum Security’s victory. The horse was later disqualified at the track and Country House was named the winner.

Saez faces two more weekends in his 15-day suspension, as determined by the commission.

Saez: horse ‘reacted about something’

Saez phoned into the meeting. In attendance was his lawyer, Ann Oldfather, three race stewards and jockeys Tyler Gaffalione (of War of Will), Jon Court (Long Range Toddy), Chris Landeros (Bodexpress) and Julien Leparoux (Master Fencer, but was there to represent Country House’s jockey).

All were involved in the “gnarly” mix-up during the race that resulted in Maximum Security’s DQ and Saez’s suspension more than a week later.

Saez told the race stewards, per the Courier-Journal, his horse was “reacting about something” when he veered slightly into the other horses’ path.

Saez told stewards, per the Courier-Journal:

“In that moment 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.”

In a conversation with his attorney during the meeting, Saez said the horse’s ears perked up and he felt “like [the horse] jumped.”

“My thing was (to) correct him right away,” Saez said, “so that he didn’t hurt any other racers.”

Gaffalione also said in the meeting that Maximum Security saw something and “spooked from it,” but said his horse never made contact: “... 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.”

More from the Courier-Journal:

“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.”

Leparoux agreed and said “we probably will never know. But Luis tried his best.”

Jockeys don’t blame War of Will

Saez and his attorney argued that War of Will and jockey Gaffalione were to blame. Gaffalione has disputed it and the horse’s trainer even compared Saez to a “drunk driver.

Gaffalione reiterated he did not blame Saez in telling race stewards there was no contact between War of Will and Maximum Security. If there were, he said, “I would’ve ended up on the ground,” per the Courier-Journal. The other jockeys in attendance also voiced their opinion War of Will was not at fault.

Saez was the only jockey suspended for the incident at Churchill Downs. His 15-day racing suspension continues through this weekend, when the Belmont Stakes is held June 8, and June 13-14. The 27-year-old has appealed based on a lack of “substantial evidence.”

Who is competing at Belmont Stakes?

Neither Maximum Security nor Country House competed at the Preakness and they will not be at New York’s Belmont Stakes either. Bill Mott, Country House’s trainer, will be a part of the race with Tacitus, the horse most thought would be at the top at the Kentucky Derby results.

War of Will, the winner of the Preakness, is scheduled to race at Belmont. He will be the only horse to race all three legs of the Triple Crown this year.

War of Will heads into the final leg still holding the No. 1 spot in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s (NTRA) Top 3-Year-Old Poll. It’s his second week in the lead over Maximum Security at No. 2.

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