Kentucky Derby-Winning Jockey Suspended for Careless Riding, His Fifth Ban in Nine Months

Sonny Leon was set to ride Rich Strike again next week at the Preakness Stakes though the horse is now being kept out of the race

Sonny Leon riding Rich Strike
Photo: Silas Walker/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service/Getty

Sonny Leon, the jockey who rode Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike to his shocking upset victory, was suspended for four days this week by Ohio racing stewards due to his conduct at an April race.

Leon was suspended last week by Ohio Stewards for careless riding during the third race on April 27 at Thistledown Racecourse, the Associated Press reported. Officials determined that he "deliberately and aggressively" steered One Glamorous Gal toward the rail to block other horses in the stretch.

Leon's original eight-day suspension in Ohio, which began Monday, was reduced to four days because he did not appeal, the AP reported.

Perrin told AP that Leon is scheduled to return Friday with six mounts at Belterra Park in Cincinnati and additional weekend rides at Churchill Downs in Louisville among many requests following the victory in Kentucky.

According to regulatory rulings compiled by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, this is the Venezuelan jockey's third careless riding suspension in the past nine months, the Courier Journal in Louisville reported.

Leon has also been suspended two additional times recently. In one case, he was given a 15-day suspension, which he is appealing, after providing false and altered documents from a physical examination to West Virginia stewards. On another occasion, Leon was reprimanded for inflicting visible injuries on one of his horses through misuse of the whip, according to the Courier Journal.

The AP had reported that Leon's agent, Jeff Perrin, said the most recent suspension wouldn't prevent him from riding Rich Strike in next week's Preakness Stakes, the second race in the coveted Triple Crown. But on Thursday afternoon, ESPN confirmed that the horse would not be taking part in the May 21 race.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MAY 07: Jockey Sonny Leon celebrates as he rides Rich Strike into the winner's circle after the horse's win during the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 07, 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty

The horse's owner Rick Dawson said in a statement to ESPN, "Our original plan for Rich Strike was contingent on the KY Derby ... subject to the race outcome & the condition of our horse, we would give him more recovery time & rest and run in the Belmont [Stakes], or another race and stay on course to run with 5 or 6 weeks rest between races."

With 80-1 odds, Rich Strike was the longest shot in the competition at Churchill Downs on Saturday, even more so because the horse only made the list once Ethereal Road was scratched from competition. Leon and Rich Strike took home the first place title and $1.86 million at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

Jeff Perrin and Rich Strike's trainer, Eric Reed, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on Leon's suspension.

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