Sunday, May 11, 2003

Derby victory is being probed

Funny Cide's rider target of inquiry

The Associated Press

A tight view of jockey Jose Santos' riding crop while riding Funny Cide to victory in the 129th running of the Kentucky Derby.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
LOUISVILLE. - The jockey who won the Kentucky Derby aboard Funny Cide is being investigated by track stewards who examined a photo of him possibly holding something besides his whip as he crossed the finish line.

The investigation will focus "most particularly on the actions" of Jose Santos at the race, chief Churchill Downs steward Bernie Hettel said Saturday. The stewards scheduled a meeting for Monday with Santos and Funny Cide owner Frank Knowlton, said Karen Murphy, the jockey's lawyer.

Knowlton said any accusations that Santos might have cheated are "just absolutely, totally ridiculous." Funny Cide, a 12-1 shot, became the first New York-bred horse and first gelding since 1929 to win the Derby, defeating favorite Empire Maker by 1 3/4 lengths May 3.

I don't think there'll be any change," Empire Maker's trainer, Bobby Frankel, said, referring to the possibility that Funny Cide could be disqualified in the Derby, "so I'll stick to my original plans (and not run in the Preakness.)"

The stewards decided to investigate after the Miami Herald published the photo, along with a story. A reporter from the Herald brought the image to the attention of the stewards Thursday night.

Kentucky Racing Commission rules do not prohibit a rider from holding an object besides his whip, other than those specifically prohibited, such as an electrical device that may make the horse run faster.

The Getty Images photo, which ran in several newspapers the morning after the race, depicts a dark area in the space between Santos' right hand and his whip. It is unclear whether the area is a shadow, the green background of another jockey's silks or something else.

Rick Leigh, a Churchill Downs steward, told the Herald the photo looks "very suspicious." The stewards, who have ultimate authority over a race's results, set no timetable for their investigation.

The stewards could take away Funny Cide's victory and award the Derby to another horse if they find that Santos violated racing rules. There has been only one Derby winner disqualified, Dancer's Image in 1968 after he was given banned medication. Forward Pass was declared the winner.

Knowlton called the investigation "an unneeded distraction" as he prepares to take Funny Cide to Saturday's Preakness.

The Herald reported that Santos said he carried an object in his hand during the race and that he described it as a "cue ring" to alert an outrider to his presence. An outrider is a rider aboard a pony who can guide a thoroughbred before and after the race.

However, Santos told the Daily Racing Form that the Herald misunderstood. The jockey, who is from Chile and speaks English with a heavy accent, said he was talking about a "Q-ray" bracelet he regularly wears for arthritis.

Frank Carlson, the Herald's horse racing writer, said it was possible there might have been a misunderstanding when he interviewed Santos. Later, in a statement released by the Herald, he said he went through his notes and believed he quoted the jockey accurately.

"What I wrote and what was in the newspaper is what I understood him to say," Carlson said.

Still, Santos appears to be wearing the bracelet on his left wrist in the photo, not his right. So, the possible misunderstanding might have no bearing on the investigation.

Getty Images photographer Jamie Squire said when he magnified his picture he was able to "definitely see something in his hand besides the whip." AP photos did not show anything else in Santos' hand.

Trainer Barclay Tagg said any suggestion that Santos cheated is "absurd."

• PREAKNESS: Champali, second in the Derby Trial and a triple-stakes winner this winter at Turfway Park, will run in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The addition gives the Preakness eight starters. Three other horses are possibilities.

Confirmed Preakness starters are Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, Scrimshaw, Indian Express, Senor Swinger, Champali and Peace Rules or Midas Eyes from the Bobby Frankel barn. The connections for Cherokee's Boy and Midway Road have committed but will wait until after Monday workouts. Lane's End Stakes winner New York Hero, Kissin Saint and Foufas Warrior could join the field.

• LONE STAR DERBY: Dynever won his third race in a row by 1 1/2 lengths over graded stakes winner Most Feared in the Grade III $500,000 stakes at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas

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Derby victory is being probed