Standout rider Luis Saez became the latest jockey testing positive for COVID-19 Friday, ending his run at Keeneland’s five-day summer meet and sending him into immediate quarantine.
The jockey learned of the positive test after riding Fortuna to a second-place finish in a $70,000 maiden special weight race Friday. He was yanked off all rides and ordered to immediately leave Keeneland. He had only two mounts Thursday, but had four high-profile rides on Saturday’s stakes-heavy card.
Saez was slated to ride Julie Foxtrot in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes and Attachment Rate in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes. He also had Tiger Blood in the Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes and Mariafoot in the Appalachian Stakes.
Instead, he becomes the second jockey in three days testing positive, joining Martin Garcia on the sidelines. This prompted immediate concern throughout Keeneland, since Saez rode at Indiana Grand Wednesday, on Indiana Derby day. He also rode at Belmont Park July 5 and at Los Alamitos in California July 4, where he won the Los Alamitos Derby aboard Uncle Chuck.
“He was there at Los Al with Martin, so maybe it was there,” Saez’s agent, Kiaran McLaughlin, told the Daily Racing Form. “I don’t really know. He’s a young, strong, fit guy, so we can just hope for the best.”
A New Test Came Back Positive
Keeneland’s coronavirus protocols were designed to catch cases like Saez. Riders arriving for the five-day meet, which ends Sunday, had to either display a clean test taken within the last five days or be tested. Saez was tested Thursday and the results came back Friday.
Vince Gabbert, Keeneland’s vice president and COO, told Bloodhorse his facility segregated jockeys by where they have been or where they were coming from on a state-by-state basis.
“We have some guys coming on from New York for the weekend, and they will be in one spot. Guys coming in from California, they’ll be in a separate spot,” Gabbert said. “We are making sure we are keeping people apart as much as we can and we are following our protocols. And so far, they are working the way we hoped they would should a situation come up.”
Saez Showed No Symptoms
McLaughlin said Saez showed no COVID-19 symptoms. He told the DRF Saez tested negative as recently as Sunday, when he submitted a swab at Belmont Park. Now, Saez faces at least 10 days of quarantine and a negative COVID-19 test before he’s allowed back on the track.
One of the top jockeys in the country, Saez is having a breakout year. His 151 wins this year is second among active jockeys and he sits fifth in season earnings, with more than $6 million. He is the regular rider of Maximum Security, who is scheduled to return to action at Del Mar July 18.
Speaking of Del Mar, Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza – who rode with Garcia and Saez at Los Alamitos – was pulled off his Del Mar mounts Friday. Espinoza was tested Wednesday after feeling flu-like symptoms, according to his agent, Brian Beach.
When test results weren’t forthcoming, Del Mar took the pilot of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah off his rides, pending those results. Espinoza hasn’t ridden since July 4.