Source: No signs jockey cheated in Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Churchill Downs stewards pored over scores of photos and videotape of jockey Jose Santos this weekend, but were unable to find any evidence he cheated in winning the Kentucky Derby aboard Funny Cide, a racing official said Monday on condition of anonymity.

The stewards also searched the racetrack and turf course where Funny Cide and Santos crossed for postrace ceremonies and did not find any illegal device, the source said.

Santos met with stewards, who are investigating whether he held something in his hand besides his whip when he crossed the finish line on May 3.

Santos attended the Monday morning meeting with his lawyer and agent near the race track to discuss the photograph that prompted the inquiry.

The investigation is focusing "most particularly on the actions" of Santos at the race, said chief steward Bernie Hettel, joined by stewards Rick Leigh and Jack Middleton at the meeting.

Funny Cide, a 12-1 shot, beat favorite Empire Maker by 1 3/4 lengths to become the first gelding to win the Derby since 1929.

Stewards decided to investigate after The Miami Herald published the photo, along with a story. A reporter from the Herald brought the image to the attention of the stewards Thursday night.

The Getty Images photo, which ran in several newspapers the morning after the race, depicts a dark area in the space between Santos' right hand and his whip. It is unclear whether the area is a shadow, the green background of another jockey's silks or something else.

Leigh told the Herald the photo looks "very suspicious." AP photos did not show anything else in Santos' right hand.

Race replays show that Santos switched the whip from his right hand to his left and back to his right during the final three-sixteenths of a mile. Funny Cide's trainer Barclay Tagg said it would take a special jockey to pull off the feat while carrying something else.

"If you can move the reins and move the sticks (whip) and still get rid of something you have to be a pretty good juggler," the trainer said.

The stewards have ultimate authority over race results.

Funny Cide could be disqualified if it is determined Santos carried something illegal, such as a battery or hand-held electrical device to shock the horse into running faster.

Kentucky Racing Commission rules do not prohibit a jockey from holding an object besides his whip, other than those specifically prohibited.

A Derby winner has been disqualified only once -- Dancer's Image in 1968 after he was given banned medication. Forward Pass was declared the winner.

The inquiry might not have an impact on Funny Cide's preparation for Saturday's Preakness Stakes, but it seems to be taking a toll on Tagg. Usually friendly, he was curt Sunday morning outside his barn at Belmont Park, declining to speak to reporters.

"I can't do anything; I've got no time," said Tagg, who planned to be in Albany for Monday's festivities, which will culminate at Saratoga later in the day. "I've got too much to do."

Trainer Bobby Frankel reaffirmed his decision to enter Peace Rules in the Preakness and run Empire Maker next in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.

Frankel had considered Empire Maker for the Preakness on the chance the Derby finish could change, but went back to his original plan.

"I don't think anything's going to happen," he said.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who will saddle Senor Swinger in the Preakness, came to Santos' defense.

"Those top riders like Jose, they wouldn't even think to do anything like that," the three-time Derby winner said. "That's why I was like, 'That just doesn't sound right.'

"Those top guys not only wouldn't do that, they're the first ones to turn somebody in if they see something. They'd be like, 'Hey, get out of here.' You'd have to be a moron to do something like that."

Santos won an Eclipse Award in 1988 as the nation's outstanding jockey and was the leading rider in purse earnings from 1986 to '89. This was his first Derby win, but he did ride 43-1 shot Volponi to victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic last October.

The Herald reported that Santos said he carried an object in his hand during the race and that he described it as a "cue ring" to alert an outrider to his presence. An outrider is a rider aboard a pony who can guide a thoroughbred before and after the race.

However, Santos told the Daily Racing Form that there was a misunderstanding. The jockey, who is from Chile and speaks English with a heavy accent, said he was talking about a "Q-Ray" bracelet he wears for arthritis.

Frank Carlson, the Herald's horse racing writer, told New York Racing Association vice president Bill Nader that there might have been a misunderstanding when he interviewed the jockey. Carlson's conversation with Nader was released in a statement by the NYRA at Belmont on Saturday.

Later, in a statement released by the Herald, Carlson said he went through his notes and believed he quoted the jockey accurately.

"What I wrote and what was in the newspaper is what I understood him to say," Carlson said.