Originally created 05/10/04

Kentucky Derby winning jockey sues newspaper for libel



LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The jockey who rode Funny Cide to victory in last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes is suing The Miami Herald for libel, seeking $48 million in damages.

The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court, contends the newspaper printed articles and photographs about Chilean jockey Jose Santos that were libelous even after Santos "directly and inarguably disagreed with, contradicted and denied all of the allegations" presented by a reporter during a telephone interview.

Robert Beatty, attorney and spokesman for The Miami Herald Publishing Co., said Sunday he had not seen the lawsuit.

"Once we do, we will analyze it and determine the appropriate response," he said. "But I can assure you that we will be defending against the allegations vigorously."

Stewards investigated the finish of last year's Derby after a photograph and story in the newspaper raised questions about whether Santos might have been holding some illegal device in his right hand when he crossed the finish line.

Stewards later concluded Santos was holding only his whip.

The newspaper reported that Santos said he carried a "cue" ring to alert an outrider to his presence.

The jockey, who speaks English with a heavy accent, later said there was a misunderstanding, saying he was talking about his "Q-Ray" bracelet for arthritis.

The complaint was brought by Santos and his family as well as Sackatoga Stable in New York, which owned Funny Cide. The newspaper, its parent company, Knight-Ridder Inc., and several employees are named as defendants.

Details of the lawsuit were first reported in the Daily Racing Form and The Courier-Journal of Louisville.