The jockey of Kentucky Derby upset winner Rich Strike is currently serving a four-day suspension handed down by Ohio racing stewards that his agent said won’t prevent him from riding the horse in next week’s Preakness.
Stewards last week suspended Sonny Leon for careless riding in the third race on April 27 at Thistledown Racecourse, during which 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 and placed 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 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 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 after Friday’s 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 on Wednesday said all samples from the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks have come 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.