If jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. wants to clear his name and a reputation tarnished in the investigation and complaint by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen and his now-former assistant, Scott Blasi, Santana should take a polygraph test. Santana was implicated by Blasi as being a good “machine rider,” alleging he may carry an electrical stimulating device, often called a buzzer, battery, or machine, when he rides horses trained by Asmussen. The devices are illegal and can result in long-term suspensions.
They aren't admissible as evidence in a court of law, but a polygraph (better known as a lie-detector test) could go a long toward helping the 21-year-old native of Panama put this ugly matter to rest.
Santana, leading rider at Oaklawn Park in 2013 and running away with the 2014 title, has not been charged by anyone with doing anything illegal. According to Stan Bowker, a steward for the Arkansas Racing Commission, the allegations by PETA have not prompted stewards to interview Santana about the comments made by Blasi.
David Longinotti, Oaklawn Park's assistant general manager of racing, said the Arkansas track “for years” has been vigilant in their efforts to catch jockeys carrying a buzzer. Oaklawn uses a metal detector “wand,” like those used to screen airplane passengers or, increasingly, fans attending major sporting events. Jockeys are screened, as are valets, outriders, pony riders, and others, according to Longinotti. No one has been caught yet, he said.
It isn't known how many other tracks employ this type of security procedure against jockeys and those who come into contact with them during the races, but I sure hope Churchill Downs does something similar for the Kentucky Derby. After all, tracks officials will be using metal detectors on all racing fans when they arrive at Churchill Downs.
Neither Blasi nor Asmussen has said anything in Santana's defense since the allegations were made public a week ago. Santana's agent, Ruben Munoz, declared the innocence of his jockey when the video and PETA complaint first surfaced in the New York Times last week. But what else is he expected to say?
Why not take it one step further and have an independent professional administer a polygraph to Mr. Santana?
I'll even foot the bill.
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