05/10/2003 12:00AM

CD stewards investigating Derby "battery"


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Churchill Downs stewards on Saturday morning launched a full investigation into whether Jose Santos may have been carrying an illegal object such as a battery when he rode Funny Cide to victory in the May 3 Kentucky Derby.

The investigation was prompted by an article and photo in the Saturday editions of the Miami Herald. The photo, taken by Jamie Squire of Getty Images, appears to clearly show part of a small, bronze-colored, metallic object in Santos's right hand, with which he also is carrying his whip. Santos and Funny Cide had just crossed the finish line in victory when the photo was taken.

Churchill steward Rick Leigh said Saturday that he and fellow stewards Bernie Hettel and Jack Middleton were in the process of examining photos from the Herald and other sources. The stewards also have been in consultation with a representative of the Kentucky Attorney General's office, said Leigh.

Santos is scheduled to be in Louisville for a closed-door meeting with the stewards Tuesday morning, said Leigh

The Herald quoted Santos as saying the object was a "cue ring" used to call an outrider, but Santos said Saturday at Belmont that he was misunderstood and that it was a "Q-ray" bracelet that he regularly wears for arthritis.

The Santos investigation recalls a similar post-Derby furor in 1995. Slow-motion videotape replay appeared to show Gary Stevens, who rode winner Thunder Gulch, handing off a small object to Pat Day, who rode Timber Country, as they galloped out past the finish line. A subsequent investigation found no wrongdoing.

A battery has been known to be used by jockeys to shock a horse into giving an all-out effort during a race. The most famous recent incident involving known usage of a battery was by jockey Billy Patin in his 1999 Arkansas Derby win aboard Valhol. Patin subsequently was suspended for five years.

- additional reporting by David Grening