ELMONT, N.Y. – Jockey Rajiv Maragh on Sunday will begin serving a seven-day suspension for a careless riding infraction for the incident at the start of last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. The suspension, handed down by the three New York stewards, was originally 10 days but was reduced to seven after Maragh waived his right of appeal.
The suspension will run through June 25, unless Maragh rides the New York Stakes that day. Under the designated race rule, Maragh could ride the New York but would then have to serve an additional day, June 26.
Maragh was suspended for allowing his mount, Isn’t He Perfect, to come over on Mucho Macho Man several strides out of the starting gate in the Belmont. In turn, Mucho Macho Man came over on Animal Kingdom, who was squeezed back and then clipped heels with another horse, nearly unseating jockey John Velazquez. The incident virtually eliminated any chance Animal Kingdom had to win the Belmont. He ultimately finished sixth.
The stewards deemed that Maragh did not make an effort to straighten his horse out and that he wasn’t clear of the horses inside of him.
“At best, it was careless,” said Carmine Donofrio, the steward for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.
“I wasn’t 100 percent clear of Mucho Macho Man, so I could have [done] a better job,” Maragh said.
Prior to the start of Wednesday’s live racing at Belmont, New York’s three stewards met with the riders for about 10 minutes to go over films of the start of the Belmont. Afterward, Maragh and Velazquez spoke briefly one-one-one and ended the conversation by shaking hands.
“We all make mistakes, we got to move on,” Velazquez said after the meeting. “I got to leave it behind; I got to do a job today and the next day.”
Maragh did say that Velazquez “knows that I didn’t do it on purpose. There was nothing intentional. This is just a part of racing and this is just one of the worst parts of racing. I just want to move on.”
On Sunday, Velazquez claimed that Maragh was not only careless, but that he may have intentionally allowed his horse to come over on Mucho Macho Man, a horse he had been taken off of after riding him in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
“Was he careless? I think he was,” Velazquez said Wednesday. “I think he definitely came in a little too quickly.”
The stewards had met with the riders earlier in the meet to discuss a pattern of carelessness on the riders’ parts coming out of the starting gate. One incident involved Maragh, who allowed his mount, Starjetta, to come over on the horse Ms Stilleto, who unseated Ramon Dominguez. Maragh received a warning, but not days for that incident.
“We have to do a better job the way we’ve been coming out of there and giving the horses an opportunity to run before we come in,” Velazquez said.
The stewards said they looked at the film of the start of the Belmont before making it official but did not post the inquiry sign, in part, because Isn’t He Perfect finished last.