Derby-winning rider Leon serving suspension by Ohio stewards
The jockey of Kentucky Derby upset winner Rich Strike is serving a four-day suspension handed down by Ohio racing stewards that his agent says won't prevent him from riding the horse in next week's Preakness.
Stewards suspended Sonny Leon last week for careless riding during the third race on April 27 at Thistledown Racecourse, east of Cleveland, during which they determined he “deliberately and aggressively” steered One Glamorous Gal toward the rail to block other horses in the stretch. Leon interfered with jockey Alexander Chavez aboard Ultra Rays, the ruling stated, and One Glamorous Gal was disqualified from third place and finished in sixth.
It is Leon's fifth suspension since last fall and includes a 15-day penalty in West Virginia for providing a false and altered document. Leon’s original eight-day suspension in Ohio was reduced to four because he did not appeal; he began serving the penalty on Monday and it ends Thursday.
The suspension was first reported by the Courier Journal in Louisville.
The Ohio suspension applies to all states, but agent Jeff Perrin told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it will not prevent the Venezuelan jockey from riding designated races. Perrin added that Leon is scheduled to return Friday with six mounts at Belterra Park in Cincinnati and additional weekend rides at Churchill Downs in Louisville among many requests following his stunning victory.
Leon’s future includes another ride aboard Rich Strike in the Preakness on May 21 in Baltimore if the horse is entered, Perrin added. Messages left with trainer Eric Reed seeking comment were not immediately returned.
“Our job is to go where we need to be, but we don’t make those decisions,” Perrin said, comparing the stewards’ decision to a technical foul in basketball. “But that horse will be sticking with him for sure. You can never forget the things you did that got you to ride in the Kentucky Derby and the people that helped get you there.”
Leon rode 80-1 long shot Rich Strike to a three quarters-length upset victory over 4-1 favorite Epicenter in the Derby on Saturday after his last-minute entry following a scratch and a start from the No. 20 outside post position. The chestnut colt paid $163.60 as the second-biggest underdog to win the Derby behind Donerail in 1913, who returned $184.90.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission announced Wednesday that all samples from the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks came back clean. A year ago, Derby-winning Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance not permitted on race day and was later disqualified.
Derby runner-up Epicenter and filly Secret Oath, who won the Oaks, are set to run in the Preakness, respective trainers Steve Asmussen and D. Wayne Lukas confirmed.