Maximum Security jockey Jockey Luis Saez, who a competing trainer has said rode like a "drunk driver" in last Saturday's Kentucky Derby, is prepared to defend both his honor and his license.
Saez, whose horse was disqualified for interfering with other horses, has hired well-known Louisville trial lawyer Ann Oldfather to defend him if the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission tries to discipline him for his role in Saturday's controversial Kentucky Derby race.
War of Will trainer Mark Casse, whose horse was involved in the interference that eventually disqualified Maximum Security from victory, has accused Saez of intentionally trying to block other horses.
Oldfather said Thursday that Casse's allegations are baseless and that she believes Saez had a "flawless ride" under "great duress."
Jockey Luis Saez reacted after finishing first aboard Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, but was later disqualified. Country House was named the winner. (Photo: Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal)
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Saez, who rode Maximum Security, and other jockeys are expected to meet with racing stewards Friday to view film of the race, Oldfather told the Courier Journal on Thursday.
Oldfather is known as a fierce divorce lawyer and civil litigator who won millions of dollars in back pay for Louisville firefighters, and for a $6.1 million verdict against McDonald's for a teenaged employee who was strip searched and sexually abused — at the direction of a hoax caller — at its restaurant in Mount Washington.
Maximum Security, the first-place finisher, was disqualified and dropped to 17th when stewards ruled he drifted out of his running lane and impacted the progress of other horses in the race. Country House was declared the winner.
Casse's comments came in response to Maximum Security owner Gary West blaming War of Will's jockey for initiating contact on the final turn.
Jockeys may be fined or suspended for intentional wrongdoing or careless riding. Stewards also could require education for the jockeys, Oldfather said.
Unlike the disqualification of a horse, disciplinary sanctions against a jockey can be appealed to the commission and the courts.
A spokeswoman for the KHRC did not immediately respond to a Courier Journal request for comment on whether Saez is facing discipline for the race.
Meanwhile, West and his wife, Mary, released a statement Thursday, reiterating that Maximum Security was wrongfully disqualified and adding that they are evaluating their legal options regarding restoring him as the winner of the 145th running of the race.
Gary West has previously said he plans to file a lawsuit. The statement said they will be making public statements in the "near future" regarding their chosen course of action.
That potential lawsuit follows the Wests' appeal with the KHRC on Monday. The KHRC swiftly denied the appeal, citing its regulations, which state that stewards’ findings as to matters that occur during a race "shall be final and not subject to appeal."
After the race, chief steward Barbara Borden said Maximum Security was disqualified for drifting out and impacting the progress of War of Will, who in turn interfered with Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress.
"The stewards unanimously disqualified Maximum Security following two objections lodged immediately after the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby and after a thorough review of the race replay. That determination is not subject to an appeal," read the denial.
The Wests’ appeal requested copies of all replays viewed by stewards, notes and recordings of the review, and recordings of statements made by jockeys, trainers or others that were considered.
It also requested that all purse monies from the Kentucky Derby be withheld and placed in escrow "pending final determination of the matter."
It is unclear whether a lawsuit would seek the same, and the Wests may be running out of time.
The $1.86 million owed to Country House will be paid on Friday, said Darren Rogers, a spokesman for Churchill Downs. Regulations stipulate that the purse, $3 million for this year's Derby, is paid out within 48 hours of the next race day. The track resumed racing on Thursday.
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