Probe may add Empire Maker to Preakness

May 10, 2003 at 5:27 PM
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LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 10 (UPI) -- Jose Santos, who last week rode Funny Cide to victory at the Kentucky Derby, is being investigated after a photograph showed something besides his whip in his hand as he crossed the finish line.

Stewards at Churchill Downs have begun an investigation into questions surrounding the photograph published in The Miami Herald. A Herald reporter brought the picture to the attention of stewards Thursday.

"This investigation is a pending matter, and state regulations prohibit any comment on such matters," Chief Steward Bernard Hettel said. "We are gathering information at this point."

Churchill Downs President Steve Sexton said the track will fully cooperate with the stewards during the probe.

Kentucky Racing Commission rules do not prohibit a jockey from holding an object other than a whip, except those specifically prohibited, like an electrical device that might help the horse run faster.

The photo depicts a dark area in the space between Santos' hand and whip, although it is not clear what - if anything - he was holding. The Herald reported that Santos said he was carrying a "`cue' ring to call the outriders."

On Saturday, Santos told the Daily Racing Form that the Herald misunderstood him and that the object was a "Q-ray" bracelet he wears for arthritis. Santos is from Chile and speaks with a heavy accent.

Hettel and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith told the Herald they have never heard of a cue ring.

Funny Cide's trainer - Barclay Tagg - called the situation "absurd." He said Saturday that New York Racing Association President Terry Meyocks has blown the picture up, and "it is clear as day."

"You can see right through his whole hand," Tagg said. "You can see the colors and horse's ear. I don't know what they're talking about. They're nuts."

While only one winning horse - Dancer's Image in 1968 - has been disqualified from the Kentucky Derby and it is not known when a decision will be rendered, trainer Bobby Frankel took the news as a chance to get Empire Maker back in the Triple Crown picture.

If Funny Cide, the first gelding to win the Derby since 1929, is disqualified, pre-race favorite Empire Maker would be declared the winner. That would give the Derby runner-up a shot at the Triple Crown.

Frankel initially said Empire Maker would skip the second leg of the Triple Crown and would bring either Peace Rules or Midas Eyes to Pimlico. On Saturday, however, Frankel told Maryland Jockey Club CEO Lou Reffetto he likely would enter his star colt.

"He's a potential Triple Crown candidate," Reffetto said from Baltimore. "We have two horses who are Triple Crown candidates."

Frankel was traveling from California to New York and was unavailable for comment.

Also in Baltimore preparing for next Saturday's Preakness at Pimlico Race Course, Tagg claimed Churchill Downs stewards called Frankel "and said he better run his horse because something is going on."

"I don't know why anyone would make those kind of statements before they blow the picture up to investigate," Tagg added. "It doesn't make any sense. I don't understand it."

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