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Wednesday September 18th, 2019 9:58AM

Maximum Security rider banned 15 days for Derby interference

By The Associated Press
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Jockey Luis Saez was suspended for 15 days for failing to control Maximum Security and causing interference that resulted in the horse's historic disqualification as the Kentucky Derby winner.

The decision by the Kentucky stewards was announced by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. A lawyer for Saez said the suspension is "unwarranted" and that the rider's legal team will file an appeal within 10 days. They are also seeking a stay of the penalty pending appeal.

"He had a flawless ride in the Kentucky Derby and there's no reason that the stewards should have given any discipline to him," said attorney Sean Deskins of the Oldfather Law Firm in Louisville. "He did everything that he was required to do and that was within his power to control the horse."

Saez was cited for failing to "make the proper effort to maintain a straight course" in the May 4 race at Churchill Downs. Country House, a 65-1 shot was elevated and declared the winner. It was the first time the horse finishing first at the Derby was disqualified for interference. Maximum Security was placed 17th of 19 horses.

Saez's suspension is May 23 through June 14 and covers racing dates.

The stewards' ruling comes a week after the racing commission denied an appeal of Maximum Security's disqualification by co-owner Gary West. The commission's swift denial came hours after West announced that Maximum Security would not run in this weekend's Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore.

The commission said that stewards' decisions are not subject to appeal. It also denied a request to stay the disqualification ruling pending appeal.

West and his wife, Mary, said in a statement Thursday they are evaluating their legal options. They added that with a "just and proper hearing of our case Maximum Security will be restored as the rightful winner."

Maximum Security led a muddy Derby from wire to wire, holding off Country House down the stretch in a trip that initially appeared to improve the 9-2 second betting choice to 5-0 lifetime.

Stewards instead took the colt down after determining Maximum Security impeded the path of several horses between the far and final turns of the 1 1/4-mile race. Maximum Security was near the rail before veering several racing lanes to his right and making contact with War of Will, who retreated, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress.

Country House was involved on the outside but didn't appear seriously affected. Country House's rider, Flavien Prat, filed an objection and said Maximum Security interfered with his horse.

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