OPINION: Department of “You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me, Right?” Monmouth Park, Saez, Drazin Are a Hot Mess

(Maximum Security, and rider Luis Saez, after this year’s KY Derby / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

In addition to our regular, “Muck Pit” columns and opinion pieces, which are fan favorites and wildly entertaining (well, at least I think so!), “The Pressbox” is starting a new feature that we like to call:

“The Department of: You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me, Right?”

From time to time, we will offer you up some “food for thought” for the day, and ask for you input and thoughts, as well. Mostly, these “soup starters” will be in the form of a “Jeopardy-like” question. But, for the most part, our questions are rather rhetorical, if not cynical, in nature.

Although we think that the very nature of the question probably needs no further explanation, we hope that you will enlighten us and others with your comments and thoughts.

Here’s a couple of queries for today, following the debacle that was held at Monmouth Park on Saturday:

How Does Luis Saez Still Have a Jockey’s License?

Did it really surprise anyone at all that jockey Luis Saez nearly deposited Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez and his mount, King for a Day, over the rail coming out of the final turn of the ill-fated Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Saturday night?

(Yep, that’s right. Saturday Night. That is when the race was finally run by the Jersey Shore racetrack after the hot-headed management team finally relented and moved the post time back to allow some of the massive heat wave to waver.)

Did it really shock anyone, anywhere that Luis Saez — a talented, yet troubled rider who appears hell-bent on trying to create havoc as much as he tries to win races — was in the middle of yet another controversy that nearly ended up in yet another messy on-track situation?

Did it really take another incident to shed light on this man, and the fact that he desperately needs not to be in the saddle, but in front of some serious-minded review board Stewards — who are determined to, once and for all, curtail his dangerous riding habits?

Did it really?

Well, it should not have.

Not in the least.

Luis Saez has a problem.

Luis Saez is a problem.

He is a dangerous rider, who apparently has no regard for the wealth, health and safety of anyone else in a race.

He swerves his horse radically to the right, to cut off both horse and rider whenever the need seemingly arises. Just as he did in this year’s Kentucky Derby, when the rider and his horse, Maximum Security, were disqualified for nearly taking out 25% of the field.

He swerves his horses radically to the left, to close off any hole that might open up on the rail whenever the need seemingly arises. He did that with the same horse, Maximum Security, in Saturday’s G1 Haskell Invitational. Only because Velazquez is a master craftsman and one of the best at his trade that a horrible and potentially tragic incident was avoided. Again.

And, if you really want to review all the races from Saturday?

Take a look at the Molly Pitcher Stakes held earlier on the card. Saez, aboard Coach Rocks, makes a belated move to try and cut off the world’s best older filly in Midnight Bisou and her jockey Mike Smith, who were making a winning move along the rail. Only because Smith and Bisou were so quick, and much the best, that Saez couldn’t get over fast enough to close yet another door. Yet, he seemed to try. His damnest.

But who should be surprised?

Who?

After all, that is exactly what this rider does over. And over. And over. And over.

It’s his patented go-to move.

Whenever it appears that any horse and rider tandem — in any race, for that matter — are going to maneuver their way around Saez and his horse, you had better be prepared for the worst.

In other words, you had better be the ones with, ahem, Maximum Security on your side.

If not? Well, it is certainly a case of buyer beware.

Back in the Spring, after the controversial Kentucky Derby was run and resulted in the first disqualification in the 145-year history of the world’s most prestigious race, I did some research on Mr. Saez.

After all, he deserved it after both Saez and the cry-baby owners of Maximum Security, Gary and Mary West, shed crocodile tears over the disqualification and immediately threatened to file lawsuit against anyone that happened to be in the Commonwealth that day.

What we found was not pretty.

In fact, it was — and is — pretty revealing.

Pretty troubling.

Troubling then.

Still troubling now.

Let’s recap for you:

On May 13, 2019, I wrote the following:

Did you know that Luis Saez has now gotten 6 suspensions in the last 8 months. Five of them are for “careless riding.” Are you kidding me? Six in 8 months?

Most of them were for allowing his horse to “drift,” and not keep a “straight path.” Sound familiar?

Most of them should have sent an alarm.

Yet, I guess, all of them did not.

Let’s review:

  1. On Feb. 3, 2019, Marty McGee, a writer for “The Daily Racing Form,” tweeted that Saez was handed out a 5-day suspension for a ride on Blakey in Race 6 on Feb. 2. That suspension came on the heels of another 5-day suspension that the Gulfstream/Florida Stewards issued him the week before, for an infraction on Thursday.
  2. On Dec. 6, 2018, the New York Racing and Wagering Board issued a 10-calendar day suspension for careless riding for an infraction that occurred in the 4th race at Aqueduct on Nov. 30. In the report, the Stewards noted that Mr. Saez failed “…to maintain a straight course and drifted out without proper clearance with his mount inside the 1/16th pole.” Sound familiar?
  3. On Nov. 4, 2018, the New York Racing and Wagering Board issued a $500 fine to Mr. Saez for misuse of the riding crop during the running of the 1st race at Belmont Park on Oct. 26, 2018. According to the ruling, Mr. Saez struck his mount more than 5 times consecutively.
  4. On Sept. 1, 2018, the New York Racing and Wagering Board suspended Mr. Saez 5 NYRA racing days for careless riding in the first race at Belmont Park on May 10, 2018. According to the ruling, Mr. Saez failed to maintain a straight path in the vicinity of the 1/16th pole. Interesting note: The report states “This after having been previously warned.”
  5. On May 9, 2018, the New York Racing and Wagering Board suspended Mr. Saez 5 NYRA racing days for careless riding in a race at Belmont Park on April 28. According to the report, failed to maintain a straight line.
  6. On April 11, 2018, the New York Racing and Wagering Board suspended Mr. Saez 5 NYRA racing days for careless riding at Belmont Park on Oct. 12, 2017. According to the report, failed to maintain a straight course. The report went on to read: “…and this having been previously warned to maintain a straight course when riding and that safety of the horses and riders are paramount.”

The list goes on and on and on and on.

But you get the point, right?

Three more in New York in 2017.

Two at Keeneland in the Spring of 2017.

Two at Saratoga in the Summer of 2016.

Over 20 suspensions dating back to 2013.

When is it ever going to stop, Mr. Saez?

Ever?

Can you just imagine any other major sports league where one individual has over 20 major infractions and is still eligible to play after just 15 days on the bench?

Name me one?

Since then, Saez was disqualified on June 28 for his ride on Anne Dupree in the 7th race at Belmont Park. Make it 21, right. But who’s counting.

Guess what for…

He moved into the path of rider Javier Castellano and his horse Enlisting, who were moving through a hole on the rail.

Sound familiar?

After this year’s Kentucky Derby incident, the Kentucky Racing Stewards — who rightfully disqualified Maximum Security for interference — held a hearing an issued Luis Saez a 15-day suspension.

In view of his history, Saez should have taken the penalty and run. (Although he probably would have knocked someone over trying to get out the door.)

The penalty, in my view, should have been for 6 months, with mandatory treatment for anger management and additional riding lessons. After that time allotment and successful completion of courses, Saez — in my view — should have gotten an additional 6 month probationary time, when he could return under very strict circumstances. The main one being that if another situation arrises where it is deemed that he and his horse endangered others, and caused major interference due to neglect — then his license would be suspended indefinitely.

Harsh?

Perhaps.

But look at the record. What else has worked with this man?

Absolutely nothing. And, the sport deserves better. Much better.

If you stood in front of a Judge with this dismal record, do you think you could keep your driver’s license?

If you are on the highway with a tractor-trailer driver with this kind of record, would you be happy?

Instead, Saez appealed the Kentucky Stewards’ decision. Lawyered up. And, he ran off to other racing jurisdictions that have allowed him to continue to ride — despite the history of violations, and pending sanctions. Jurisdictions, mind you, that are allowing a repeat offender; a persistent violator; and a person that apparently has no intentions of either changing or altering his reckless riding style to continue to endanger others.

Such was the case on Saturday.

Never mind that you “think” that King for a Day was tiring; was done; and was no threat to win the race. Doesn’t matter. Saez negotiated his horse over to the rail, cutting off the horse and rider and causing them to snatch up dramatically. It was a dangerous situation. Perhaps the only thing that kept them upright was the master horsemanship of a Hall of a Fame rider — who just so happened to be pissed after the race and the New Jersey Stewards lack of a DQ.

Never mind that you “think” that Maximum Security was the best horse, and should not be penalized. Maybe he was. But Saez’ actions warranted a disqualification. And, they warrant another “suspension.”

Never mind that you “think” that Luis Saez was simply cutting the corner and trying to find the best and quickest path to victory. The rider compromised another; endangered another.

After the race, Saez said:

“I knew it was not going to happen,” said Saez on the possibility of another disqualification.

Wonder how he knew?

Because it should have been a disqualification. A DQ was the only right decision.

How Is It That the Chairman & CEO of Monmouth Park Also Is Legal Counsel to Gary & Mary West? And, Did That Impact the DQ Decision?

As you sit in your chairs at home and watch the replay of the Haskell Invitational, and contemplate the “Inquiry” into the mess that occurred at the top of the stretch, would it matter to you that Dennis A. Drazin  — the Chairman of CEO of a holding company that operators Monmouth Park — is also part of the legal team that is representing Gary and Mary West in their lawsuit against the Kentucky Racing Commission and its’ individual members over the disqualification in the Kentucky Derby?

Got this from the case record currently in litigation in Kentucky, from May 31, 2019:

ORDER: This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiffs’ motion for admission pro hac vice of Ronald J. Riccio, Eliott Berman, Dennis A. Drazin and Karen A. Murphy as counsel in the above-styled action. [DE 10, 11, 12, 13] The Court, having reviewed the record and being otherwise sufficiently advised, hereby GRANTS the Motions. Signed by Judge Karen K. Caldwell on 5/31/19. (JLM)

***MOTION SUBMITTED TO CHAMBERS of Judge Caldwell for review: re11 MOTION for Eliott Berman to Appear Pro Hac Vice by Gary West, Mary West ( Filing fee $125; receipt number 0643-4373234),13 MOTION for Karen A. Murphy to Appear Pro Hac Vice by Gary West, Mary West ( Filing fee $125; receipt number 0643-4373279),10 MOTION for Ronald J. Riccio to Appear Pro Hac Vice by Gary West, Mary West ( Filing fee $125; receipt number 0643-4373191),12 MOTION for Dennis A. Drazin to Appear Pro Hac Vice by Gary West, Mary West ( Filing fee $125; receipt number 0643-4373257) (JLM)

Would it matter to you that Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security, also trains horses for Drazin?

Just look up Sunny Ridge. Just finished 4th in the State Dinner Stakes at Belmont Park, after winning the G3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park.

Listed as trainer?

Jason Servis.

Would that bother you, just a tinge?

Would that smack of a conflict of interest, just a little?

Would that be something that you would like to know?

Would you like to know if he made a call to the Stewards’ Stand? Just asking.

Remember Saez’ quote after the race:

“I knew it was not going to happen,” said Saez on the possibility of another disqualification.

Well, you never got the chance to know because the “Inquiry” took about a second before the Stewards decided to leave Maximum Security as the winner of the Haskell Invitational.

The same horse that was disqualified in the Kentucky Derby was left up.

The same owners that Drazin helps represent were left up.

The same trainer who trains horses for Drazin was left up.

And, right there in front of the TV cameras, God and Ole’ Glory, Drazin was in the winner’s circle handing over the trophy.

Make your stomach turn just a hair?

Dennis A. Drazin is an attorney who was licensed to practice in New Jersey in 1975, and in New York in 1981. For the most part, on his bio page of Drazin and Warshaw P.C., Drazin is listed as an attorney that practices in the areas of:

Personal Injury.

Medical Malpractice.

Premises Liabiliity.

Product Liability.

He is not listed as an attorney with expertise and experience in civil lawsuits against Racing Commissions, and Government entities.

Just interesting, don’t you think?

All This, and Jerry Hollendorfer is Ruled Off?

In closing, doesn’t it make you wonder how Luis Saez keeps his Jockey’s License and the right to continue riding, while Jerry Hollendorfer — the Hall of Fame Trainer — cannot get stalls in New York or California?

Doesn’t it make you wonder how the Chairman and CEO of a track can have horses trained by Jason Servis; provides legal counsel to Gary and Mary West; doesn’t disclose that information publicly; and doesn’t recuse himself from the drama that unfolds in the G1 Haskell Invitational…yet Jerry Hollendorfer cannot train and saddle his horses?

Doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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