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Much Ado About Nothing


Funny Cide

Funny Cide wins the Derby

Cindy Pierson Dulay
Updated May 12, 2003
By now I am sure everyone has read about the controversy over the Kentucky Derby winning jockey Jose Santos that was initiated by an article in the Miami Herald by freelance writer Frank Carlson on Saturday. In the article, a photograph was presented that made it seem, at first look, as if Santos had another object in his hand along with his whip. Fuel was added to the fire by comments from one of the Kentucky stewards that it looked very suspicious. More confusion was added by Carlson's paraphrased quote from Santos saying he was carrying a "cue ring" to alert the outriders. Nobody had ever heard of a "cue ring" in relation to racing before.

Much discussion, debate, and sad to say pre-judging of Santos occurred over the weekend. Many were quick to jump to the conclusion that Funny Cide's victory must have been aided by an electrical device. Santos was heckled by fans at Belmont who assumed he was crooked, despite his flawless 19 year career as a top jockey in the US. The "cue ring" issue was cleared up quickly as Santos explained that his wife gave him a Q-Ring bracelet to wear the night before the Derby to help with his arthritis. Santos does have a thick accent so it would have been easy to misunderstand what he said, but I think it was irresponsible to use the paraphased item without trying to verify it once the author discovered there was no such thing as a "cue ring".

A meeting was held at Churchill Downs Monday morning with Santos and the panel of stewards to discuss the issue. The stewards also did a thorough investigation of the matter, viewing photos from several sources and video from the track with the assistance of the Louisville Police forensic services. The end result was the determination that there was nothing in Santos' hand other than his whip. What appeared on casual examination to be an object was just a combination of shadows and the silks of Empire Maker showing through his fingers.

Kentucky's chief steward Bernard J. Hettel said: "We have carefully examined dozens of photographs taken from a number of different angles at various points during the race, reviewed several videotapes, and conducted a thorough interview with Mr. Santos himself. Based on the information that we have gathered and reviewed, we are confident that Jose Santos carried nothing more than a whip in his right hand as Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby. There is no evidence that would suggest that Mr. Santos had any prohibited device in his possession or that he engaged in any improper actions during the race."

Jason Knowlton, managing partner of Sackatoga Stables who races Funny Cide, said in a press release: "On behalf of Sackatoga Stable and the owners of Funny Cide, I want to thank the Kentucky Stewards and the Kentucky Racing Commission for their prompt attention and investigation into these unfortunate accusations. We are disappointed that the inquiry had to take place and that one photo was the basis of a story that called into question the legitimacy of the Kentucky Derby champion Funny Cide and the integrity of Jose Santos... Now that this matter is behind us, we will refocus our attention on the Preakness and the Triple Crown."

The person most affected by this, both emotionally and in damage to his reputaion, was jockey Jose Santos. Despite being cleared of any wrong-doing, this incident will likely haunt him forever. He said: "I am thankful this nightmare is over. A week ago was the happiest moment of my life and then this photograph came in from Miami and it destroyed my career. My reputation was good. I was very angry. I couldn't sleep. It was terrible for my family, especially my little boy. He's my number one fan. I told him everything would be OK...This was a terrible thing for racing. That happy moment (winning the Derby) can't be taken away. But a cloud came in now it's gone away."

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