Santos Meets With Stewards; Announcement Later Monday

Santos Meets With Stewards; Announcement Later Monday
Photo: AP/Garry L. Jones
Jockey Jose Santos, right, arrives at the Churchill Downs racing office for a meeting with track stewards along with his attorney Karen Murphy, center, and agent Mike Sellitto.
Jockey Jose Santos met with Churchill Downs stewards Monday morning concerning a controversy over a photo taken after this year's Kentucky Derby. The stewards are investigating whether Santos held something in his hand besides his whip when he crossed the finish line on May 3.

There was no announcement following the Monday morning meeting, in which Santos, his attorney Karen Murphy, and his agent Mike Sellitto met with the stewards and attorney J. Bruce Miller, who was representing the Kentucky Racing Commission.

Chief steward Bernie Hettel said he had no comment as he rushed to his car, accompanied by Santos, Murphy, and Sellitto.

Expected to attend the press conference are: the three stewards conducting the investigation--Hettel, who is also executive director of the Kentucky Racing Commission, and association stewards Jack Middleton and Richard Leigh; Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton; Kentucky Racing Commission chairman Frank Shoop; Santos and Murphy.

Over the weekend, the stewards pored over scores of photos and videotape of Santos but were unable to find any evidence he cheated, a racing official said Monday on condition of anonymity.

The stewards also searched the racetrack and turf course where Funny Cide and Santos crossed for postrace ceremonies and did not find any illegal device, the source said.

Santos met with stewards, who are investigating whether he held something in his hand besides his whip when he crossed the finish line on May 3.

The investigation is focusing "most particularly on the actions" of Santos at the race, said chief steward Bernie Hettel, joined by stewards Rick Leigh and Jack Middleton at the meeting.

Funny Cide, a 12-1 shot, beat favorite Empire Maker by 1 3/4 lengths to become the first gelding to win the Derby since 1929.

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.

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.

Leigh told the Herald the photo looks "very suspicious." AP photos did not show anything else in Santos' right hand.

Race replays show that Santos switched the whip from his right hand to his left and back to his right during the final three-sixteenths of a mile. Funny Cide's trainer Barclay Tagg said it would take a special jockey to pull off the feat while carrying something else.

"If you can move the reins and move the sticks (whip) and still get rid of something you have to be a pretty good juggler," the trainer said.

The stewards have ultimate authority over race results.

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