Apprentice Saez Dies From Injuries Sustained in Indiana Grand Accident

by | 10.14.2014 | 8:28pm
Juan Saez, a 17-year-old native of Panama, died from injuries suffered in a racing accident at Indiana Grand earlier this month.

Apprentice jockey Juan Saez, the talented 17-year-old younger brother of journeyman rider Luis Saez, died late Tuesday night from injuries sustained in an an accident during the eighth race earlier in the day at Indiana Grand in Shelbyville, Ind., according to a statement from track announcer Bill Downes.

Saez was airlifted by Life Flight Networks to Methodist Hospital in nearby Indianapolis suffering from what Daily Racing Form reporter Marty McGee said was “severe head trauma.” McGee quoted Julio Espinoza, agent for the young Panamanian, saying chances of survival were bleak and that doctors revived Saez “three or four times.” He was reported to be in critical condition and on life support throughout the evening.

Shortly after midnight, Downes posted the following message on Twitter: “I've been informed Indiana Grand has cancelled the races for Wednesday due to the passing of jockey Juan Saez.”

The fatal accident occurred on the turn of a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming race when Montezuma Express, with Saez aboard, appeared to run up on a tiring horse and clipped heels. Both horse and rider fell to the ground and a trailing horse, Masaru, ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., collided with Montezuma Express and also fell. Video of the race was unclear how Saez was struck.  Santana did not require medical attention, according to an Indiana Grand spokesperson. Indiana Grand officials originally stated that Montezuma Express was euthanized, but subsequent reporting by Jennie Rees in the Courier-Journal indicated the horse suffered superficial injuries only. On Wednesday, track spokesman Tammy Knox said that Masaru was euthanized as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.

“There are no words to describe the devastation that we are all feeling,” said Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys' Guild.  “Our thought and prayers are with Juan's family during this tragic time.”

“Juan was such a talented and sweet kid, with a promising future,” said John Velazquez, chairman of the Guild.  “It is like losing a member of the family. We are competing against one another on the track, but off of the track, we are all very close.  Since his family was in transit, it gives some comfort knowing that he was surrounded by his fellow riders, his agent, Julio Espinoza, and close friends, when he passed.”

Saez, a graduate of the Laffit Pincay riding school in Panama City, began his U.S. career in June and was runaway leading rider at Ellis Park this summer, winning with 51 of 194 mounts. His closest competitor had 27 wins. At Indiana Grand, Saez won with 21 of 95 starts. The totals from his brief career in the U.S. are 89 victories from 440 mounts.

Saez was the leading jockey at Ellis Park's recent meet

Saez was the leading jockey at Ellis Park's recent meet

Saez becomes the first jockey to die in a race since Jorge Harrera was killed in a July 2012 accident at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif. The teen is believed to be the 153rd jockey since 1940 to lose his life in a North American horse race, according to figures compiled by the Jockeys' Guild and published in the Louisville Courier-Journal. That list (which may include some training fatalities) was published prior to Harrera's 2012 death or the 2010 Zia Park accident that claimed the life of jockey Mark Villa.

In a separate, unrelated incident at the top of the stretch of the race in which Saez was injured, Platitude suffered a catastrophic injury and fell, unseating jockey Marcelino Pedroza. Platitude was euthanized but Pedroza escaped injury.

Due to two incidents on the track in different locations, the decision was made to cancel the ninth and final race on Tuesday's program at Indiana Grand.

For more about the life and brief riding career of Juan Saez, read Jennie Rees' July 7 profile in the Courier-Journal.

The NTRA issued the following statement Wednesday morning:

“Juan Saez possessed an immense gift for riding horses and there is no telling how bright his future as a jockey would have been. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, as well as the entire tight-knit racing community that supports Indiana Grand.”

Alex Waldrop, President & CEO, National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA)

  • Ben van den Brink


  • greg

    So sad, RIP Luis, thoughts to your family

  • Jean Blocker Castleberry Adsit

    Dear Saez Family,
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you. God Bless Juan and May He Rest in Peace. Respectfully, Jean, Eric and Abigail Adsit

    • DawnP

      What the Adsits said. Condolences from MD.

  • Michael Castellano

    A stark reminder of the dangers riders face so we can enjoy racing and/or gamble. It’s no secret to racing folks that an ambulance often follows behind each race. Unfortunate young man probably had a great racing career ahead of him. R.I.P.

  • Donna salsburg

    To Juans family and friends, my sincere condolences, just very tragic, taken from us way to soon,RIP,may God bless and keep you.

  • Seabiscuit

    Jockeys are the greatest athletes in the world. And the toughest. And the bravest.

  • Richard C

    It is a majestically elegant sport…..and can be brutally unforgiving — in a matter of seconds.

  • johnthekiwi

    My condolences to his family and friends. Our trainer had raved about “the kid” for some time and I’m guessing he (who had a horse in the cancelled 9th last night at IG) is also in shock. Seabiscuit is right, jockeys are ridiculously brave and tough athletes. Part slot receiver and part F1 driver. We lose two a year, sometimes in the pre-dawn on a training track and sometimes in full view of the entire betting public. RIP Juan and if it is of any comfort to those closest to him he died doing what he loved and what he was exceptionally good at. My thoughts also go out to the connections of Platitude and Montezuma Express.

  • betterthannothing

    What a tragic race! Sending condolences to Juan Saez’s loved ones.

  • Jay Stone

    RIP Juan and condolences to Luis and rest of family. He was very young but was also very good and on his way to becoming a superstar.

  • Leo M.

    I’m in shock. What a talented rider and rising star. My deepest sympathy goes out to the Saez family. May he RIP.

  • davidinD

    My condolences to the Saez family, friends, and connections. This was an awful accident and reminds us all of the fragility of life.

  • jazz mania

    A humbling reminder of what my insignificant dreams are riding on. Rest in Peace Juan Saez. Condolences and Peace to all on this sad day.

  • diastu in tempe

    So many bright lights blinking out at the same time. A tragic and sad sad day. Deepest condolences to Juan’s family and all his friends. Condolences also to the connections of the horses lost in this very star-crossed race. Thank you to Indiana Grand for darkening the track today.

  • pesposito

    very sad

  • Bellwether

    The Kid was on his way to the top and he left here doing what he loved…Bless his soul and his family…

  • Pamela Hayden

    My sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Saez family, friends and many fans who have heavy hearts today. A very sad tragedy and Juan “the kid” impressed so many. Rest In Peace.

  • Blankcheck

    Very sad day in the racing world. My prayers and condolences go out to the Saez Family. RIP

  • The Clocker

    rest in peace my friend

  • Beach

    Words cannot even convey how sad I am, especially of course for all concerned, Juan Saez’s family and friends, and also for the horses and their connections. I am deeply sorry. God keep them all… <3 <3 <3 <3

  • Horse – n- Around

    How can you ever forget that smile.
    Whereas we may miss him, he has better days, with all of the greats who gave us all more smiles, just like Juan.
    I’ll never forget your smile.
    D.J. Recchia

  • dispute92

    Difficult to look at that smiling face of innocence without filling with tears. So terribly sad. My condolences to his family and friends. As someone once said, “Horseracing is the only sport where an ambulance follows you to the finish”. Dangerous game and not for the weak of hearts.
    Which says it all when speaking of Juan and his huge heart for this game.
    RIP Juan.

  • Sue M. Chapman

    While I didn’t know Juan Saez, his death is tragic. My condolences to those he loved and those who loved him. Please be supportive of Ricardo Santana, Jr. I don’t know him, either. He now carries a huge burden. Please help him.

  • patty kilcoyne

    god bless our family for your lose may heresy in peace

  • Peggy

    Very sad. My heart goes out to Juans family, friends and his racing family. Jockeys are the toughest athletics that put their life at risk for what they love. The Racing Family has lost a young man that had his life going at full speed to win and win again. The crowds that cheered him on and followed him from track to track we give Juan a BIG THANK YOU for the excitement and thrills of the races he won. RIP JUAN SAEZ!

  • JerseyGirl

    Condolences to the Saez family. What a terrible loss on a very tragic day. My prayers are with you all.

  • J

    God Rest His Soul. I used to see him in FL with his brothers. He was a Wonderful Young Man.

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