Why jockey Sonny Leon is serving a suspension for careless riding days after stunning Kentucky Derby win

Why jockey Sonny Leon is serving a suspension for careless riding days after stunning Kentucky Derby win

Sonny Leon has spent most of the week after his career-altering win at the Kentucky Derby on the sidelines.

The 32-year-old jockey is serving a four-day suspension for careless riding stemming from an incident during an April 27 race in Ohio. He will not be permitted to return to the racetrack until Friday.

It’s Leon’s fifth suspension since last September. The jockey has missed out on 32 race days since Sept. 15 as a result.

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The Sporting News looks at Leon’s suspension and what it may mean for Derby winner Rich Strike’s chances at the Preakness:

Why was Sonny Leon suspended?

Leon incurred his latest suspension during an April 27 race at Ohio’s Thistledown. Stewards found that the horse Leon was riding, One Glamorous Gal, interfered with Ultra Rays in a $28,000 allowance race. Investigators found that Leon “deliberately and aggressively steered” his filly toward the rail in an attempt to block off other horses.

Three of Leon’s suspensions, including his latest one, have stemmed from accusations of careless riding. He also was served a suspension for “presenting false and altered documents from a physical examination” in West Virginia and “inflicting visible injuries on one of his mounts through misuse of the whip”, according to the Louisville Courier Journal’s Tim Sullivan.

“You do have to be aggressive to win,” Leon’s agent Jeff Perrin told Sullivan. “I think there are judgment calls that people make, and I don’t want to comment on it too much for political reasons. But you have to be aggressive.” 

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Leon’s suspension could have been longer. The rider had his suspension halved from eight days to four days after deciding not to appeal. Despite being issued in Ohio, the suspension applies to all states.

However, Leon’s suspension should not jeopardize his chances of mounting Rich Strike at the Preakness on May 21.

Will Rich Strike compete in the Preakness?

To date, Rich Strike trainer Eric Reed hasn’t decided whether to race the 3-year-old colt at the Preakness. Reed told reporters that Rich Strike was initially scheduled to have a five-week break after the Derby, with an eye on running in the Belmont Stakes on June 11. The allure of competing for a Triple Crown has obviously made Rich Strike’s team reconsider things.

“It’s not that we can’t compete,” Reed said. “It’s, does that shoot [a chance at winning the] Belmont completely?” The risk of injury, the risk of overtraining, the risk of a bad finish … it all plays into the question of whether to chase history.”

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Nonetheless, if Rich Strike does compete in the Preakness, there will only be one person mounted on his back: Leon.

“That horse will be sticking with him for sure,” Perrin said. “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.”