Jockey Takes the Whip to ‘Miami Herald’

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(AP) Jockey Jose Santos is renewing his legal battle against The Miami Herald, contending that an article defamed him by questioning whether he carried an illegal device when he rode Funny Cide to victory in the 2003 Kentucky Derby.

Stewards later determined Santos carried only his whip and that a photograph the Herald relied on for its story was an optical illusion.

“The facts were not true and were published with reckless disregard for the truth,” according to the suit filed May 9 in Broward County Circuit Court. Santos’ business and personal reputation were damaged, the suit says.

Santos previously sued the Herald for libel in U.S. District Court in Louisville, Ky., but that case was dismissed in February for lack of jurisdiction.

The new suit seeks unspecified monetary damages in excess of $15,000, the threshold for the case to be heard in circuit court. The Miami Herald Publishing Company and the paper’s parent company, Knight Ridder Inc., were named as defendants.

“We believe the grounds upon which the lawsuit is predicated are unfounded and we will mount a vigorous defense,” said Robert Beatty, attorney for the Herald. He declined to address the specific accusations in the suit.

Stewards investigated the finish of the 2003 Derby after the Herald published a story and photograph that it said showed a possible device in Santos’ hand. 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.

Racing rules prohibit jockeys from carrying electronic or other devices, except a whip, that can make a horse run faster.

The jockey, who speaks English with a heavy accent, later said there was a misunderstanding: He was talking about the “Q-Ray” bracelet he wears for arthritis.

Santos’ attorney, Bruce Rogow, noted that jockeys and other horse experts quoted in the Herald’s story hadn’t heard of a cue ring.

“The Herald should have known then that they were off and running on the wrong track,” Rowan said Thursday.

The suit says the defendants acted with malice because they either knew or should have known the statements were false.

If Santos had been carrying an illegal device, he would have been stripped of his victory and could have faced criminal charges in addition to penalties from racing officials, including the loss of his racing license.

Santos also rode Funny Cide to a win in the 2003 Preakness Stakes.

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