Donna Barton Brothers, former jockey and longtime part of the NBC broadcast team for major stakes races, offered her view of the much-debated Kentucky Derby disqualification in her personal blog this week. Brothers, who cannot see an active race from her place on horseback on the track, was responding to a number of questions she has had from friends and fans since the event.
Brothers is responsible for doing an interview with the Derby-winning jockey immediately after the race, so she has to wait aboard her pony horse along the track's backstretch. She listens to the live race call through her NBC earpiece. Normally, she said she is not permitted to interview a rider if there is an objection, because stewards want to speak with that jockey as quickly as possible and holding them up for an interview would be considered detaining a witness. She was not told there was a rider objection until she had already interviewed Saez and teammate Nick Luck had interviewed Jason Servis.
Brothers points out that the lengthy wait for the stewards' decision may have been influenced not by a wavering on whether or not to disqualify Maximum Security for interference, but rather a careful process to decide where to place him. His final placing would be determined by the finish position of the worst-placing horse he interfered with, which may have been why officials had to review the tape so many times.
“I've watched the replay of the Kentucky Derby a hundred times and from multiple angles. Yes, I've seen every video that has been posted on Twitter, the Courier-Journal, Facebook, etc. No, there is no compelling evidence to convince me that anyone caused Maximum Security to spook and duck out other than the crowd noise,” she wrote. “When you slow the footage down to a snail's pace, it obfuscates the split second in which this happened and makes it look like the riders behind Saez had more time to react. They had a split second. No more.”
Brothers also offered a theory on the suspension of Saez, which many fans have categorized as unfair. She points out that apprentice riders are required to review films with the stewards every day, even if they are not participating in races shown in the film, as a way of teaching them what officials are looking for and what's appropriate behavior. Saez, who has maintained his horse's actions did not put anyone in danger, may have appeared to the stewards as though he did not appreciate the consequences of the interference, which could have caused a serious accident. In such a case with a rider who has prior suspensions for careless riding, the stewards could have decided he needed the point emphasized to him.
Read more at Barton Brothers's blog here.
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