After Kentucky Derby, Court calls for 'more integrity' from jockeys

May 07, 2019 10:52am
Jon Court came into Saturday's Kentucky Derby billed the oldest jockey, at age 58, to ride in the prestigious race.

The veteran came out of the Derby part of a more historic story line as one of two jockeys who lodged objections that led to the first disqualification of a winner due to interference.

“That was me being possibly on the path of a Hall of Fame-worthy nomination," Court said after his mount, Long Range Toddy, looked plenty live rolling through the far turn until Maximum Security veered out from the rail and into War of Will, sparking a chain reaction that jettisoned Court out of the race.

“I was just engaging momentum when the horse collared me,” said Court, who finished 16th, one spot ahead of where stewards placed Maximum Security. “I was set to make that run and (Long Range Toddy) came to the race better than I’ve ever swung a leg over him. Some people thought I was out of horse, but I beg to differ with them entirely.

"I might not have won -- we’ll never know -- but I took one bump (from War of Will), and of course, anytime one horse bumps another in the turn, it’s going to be gravitating towards the outside, so he created a hole in an aggressive manner. Things just became a fiasco.”

Court added that as jockeys, "We have to protect one another, so I did my best.”

Court, a winner of more than 4,000 races, supports the decision made by stewards, saying "I don't ever want to see a horse taken down. It's just tough to be part of it all." But he also noted the relative inexperience of other jockeys involved.

“Where the infractions started, it was between two of the youngest riders on the track that day,” said Court of Maximum Security's Luis Saez (27) and War of Will's Tyler Gaffalione (24). “What does that tell you? There’s something there with them that was lacking that created this historical moment in this prestigious race.

“I’ve done my forensic on it and sometimes we have to make a decision to not let our anxiousness to win compromise the safety of the equine we’re sitting upon or the riders and human factors involved.

“I will commend Barbara Borden for the speech that she gives before every Derby. She speaks slowly and articulately. She makes it clear and repeats herself on the judgement that we make on these horses that we have the pleasure to ride: Do not, do not take chances. She had to make a decision, because I think her words were taken lightly Saturday.”

Court said he followed those instructions, taking back on Long Range Toddy when Maximum Security pushed out near the 5/16ths pole. He doesn't feel as if all his counterparts did the same.

“My God, some of these young riders need to toughen up a little bit and quit trying to win so much," Court said. "I don’t care if it is the Derby or a $5,000 claimer. They need to have a little more integrity about the equine value we ride and not cast everything so carelessly aside.”

Court, who was making his fourth Derby start, has taken his tack just about everywhere during more than three decades as a jockey.

“I think these riders need to be pulled up on a regular basis and taken to school," he said. "Literally taken to school, like they used to in the old days. I used to get seven days (a suspension). Now they give them two. You don’t learn anything from that.

“We got these young riders, and God bless them, they are making money, they are talented and we got these powerhouse agents behind them and we’re passing the foundation of the historical tradition of racing, where if you made a mistake, you sit back, sit down and the trainer himself will reiterate what happened before the stewards even get involved.

"Now, you got riders getting back up and going two or three more races on the same card riding chalk. In my day, it was not that way.”


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