After the initial flurry of stories in the immediate aftermath of allegations by Eric Guillot, trainer of second-place finisher Moreno, that Saez used an electrical device to urge Will Take Charge to victory in the Midsummer Derby, the story has disappeared from the mainstream media, which traditionally lusts for anything that can be turned into a scandal, especially if gambling is involved.
Hopefully, this is not an indication that the non-racing media doesnât consider racing sufficiently important to commit resources to the story.
Then again, even the racing press has pretty much filed and forgotten Guillotâs charges. A perusal of Equidaily.com, which is to racing what the Drudge Report is to current events, shows only one story among more than a couple dozen on the issue and that is the bottom half of a column by Bill Finley, which furthers the argument that Saez did nothing wrong.
Guillotâs allegations are the most serious since Jose Santos was falsely accused of using a battery on Funny Cide in the 2003 Kentucky Derby.
After extensive investigations established the allegation against Santos had no basis, The Miami Herald, the source of the story, reached a settlement with the Hall of Fame jockey. Reports are the Herald made a payment to Santos ranging from less than a million dollars to as high as $5 million. A confidentiality clause was part of the agreement.
Saez, through his agent, former jockey Richard DePass, has vehemently denied Guillotâs allegations and said he, too, intends to hire an attorney to pursue defamation charges.
A distinction between the Santos and Saez cases is that Guillot is a member of the racing community. If his charges donât stand up, he has sullied the game that provides his livelihood.
The basis for his complaint, which he made to the New York State Gaming Commission, is something he says his brother noticed while watching the Travers telecast on NBC Sports. According to Guillot, his brother and others, who subsequently looked at a tape, said they saw Saez transfer something from one hand to another during the gallop out, then put it either under the saddle cloth or drop it to the track.
However, no device was found on the track nor under the saddle cloth. A search of Saezâs locker also found nothing amiss.
Guillotâs entourage might be supportive but Iâve looked at the tape numerous times in slow motion and he had better have more than this. Zooming in on Saezâs hands, there is a lot of motion back and forth, but no clear passing of anything.
Moreover, the mass of hands, whip, reins and Will Take Chargeâs mane makes it impossible to draw a meaningful conclusion unless wishful thinking is involved. The Travers would have been the most significant victory of Guillotâs 20-years-plus career.
More significantly, Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, now a racing analyst for NBC Sports, also scrutinized the tape and said he could see nothing to substantiate Guillotâs allegation. Bailey said from his vantage point the only things in Saezâs hands were his whip and the reins.
Others have pointed out that Saez rapidly switched his stick during the drive, an impossible feat if you are carrying a buzzer.
The video was turned over to New York State Police experts at video analysis. The outcome of their investigation is still pending. However, given the opinions of those with vast expertise in racing, itâs hard to imagine the cops will be able to mount a convincing case. This is not to say there even is a case.
Guillot, known as a loose cannon, also took a crude backhanded whack at D. Wayne Lukas, saying Will Take Chargeâs trainer is past his prime. Of course, he is. The Coach is 78. But even in the homestretch of his life, Lukas won this yearâs Preakness with Oxbow and the Hopeful with Strong Mandate, in addition to the Travers.
Guillot also was quoted as saying, âThereâs a lot to leave to the imagination with Wayneâs organization.â
This would be the organization that has won 19 Breedersâ Cup races and 14 Triple Crown events as well as developing trainers such as Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, Dallas Stewart and Mark Hennig. Guillotâs organization has zero Breedersâ Cup and Triple Crown race winners.
If his charge against Saez proves to be as baseless as that against Santos, Guillot deserves to be punished almost as severely for bringing disrepute to the sport as Saez would be if he was to be found guilty. This is beyond any potential punitive monetary damages Guillot would face in a civil suit.
He also would owe all of racing an apology.