04/14/2011 1:54PM

Q&A: Jose Santos

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Barbara D. Livingston

Retired Hall of Fame jockey, he is the subject of the recently published biography "Above It All: The Turbulent Life of Jose Santos," by journalist Bill Heller

Birthdate: April 26, 1961, in Concepcion, Chile

Family: wife, Grace; sons Jose Ricardo, Jose Jr.; daughters Sophia, Nadia, Selena, Savannah

Got into racing because. . . "Family tradition. My father was a jockey, trainer, and assistant trainer. He taught me and three other brothers how to ride."

What made you want to have a biography done on you? "I did my biography to be an inspiration and example for young and future jockeys. Some of these kids get put into situations they are not used to, and I would like to help them by showing them what to do and not do, and I feel the book does that very well."

In the book, you certainly are very revealing about your personal failures as well as your professional successes. Was that difficult? "It was not difficult at all. It was my life, and although I went through some turbulent things I am not embarrassed at all. This made it very easy for me to open up. I wanted to be honest."

The greatest race a rider could win is the Kentucky Derby, and you accomplished that with Funny Cide in 2003. Yet within days you were falsely accused by the Miami Herald of using an illegal device to urge him home. What do you remember about those days: "Winning the Kentucky Derby is one of the greatest achievements someone could have in this profession. Besides my childrens' births, it was the best day of my life, and having someone question my integrity of the sport definitely hurt. I always will be remembered for being the jockey who was accused of cheating when he won the Derby, and that hurts. The day I was accused I thought it would just blow over, but unfortunately, it blew up into a worldwide affair. I was in every newspaper for being accused of something I would never do in one million years."

Was there a measure of vindication when Funny Cide won the Preakness? "Definitely, I had to prove to everyone I did not do it. Although it was already determined, people still had their reservations about my Kentucky Derby win. That is why after Funny Cide and I passed the finish line I showed my hand so every one could see there was nothing there."

Did you ever get an apology or a settlement from the newspaper? "Apology was accepted. All of that is just the past now, and I try to focus on the fact that I did win the Derby."

You also talk about the incarceration of your daughter Sophia after she was sentenced to three to nine years in prison in 2008 for a 2007 auto accident in which one person was killed. How is she doing, and how are you handling that? "It could have happened to anyone. Unfortunately, it happened to my daughter. She is doing wonderful during all she is going through. She is doing school inside of the prison, and I am still very proud of my daughter. I cannot wait until the day she is out. As for me, it is of course a hard thing to handle, but I have to be strong for my daughter."

You were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. How gratifying was that? "Going into the Hall of Fame was the best thing that has happened to my career. I felt like all of my hard work that I had put in since I was an 8-year-old boy working at the racetrack in Concepcion, Chile, was finally being appreciated at the fullest extent it could possibly be. I was very moved when the crowd gave me three standing ovations during my speech. I always loved my fans, and that day they showed me that they love me, too."

You were forced to retire in 2007 because of injuries suffered in an accident at Aqueduct. Do you miss riding? "Most definitely. I never wanted to leave the game the way I had to, but I am very fortunate in how well I came out of my injury. I will always miss riding, and it is hard for me to go to the races and not want to be back out there, and that is why I try to stay involved in the racing world. I love it."

What are you doing these days? "I am a jockey agent for a Chilean jockey named Hector Berrios, who just arrived in this country a few weeks ago. We will be based at Calder. He is 24 years old, has been riding for seven years, and has won more than 1,400 races. He is a very good jockey and person. He tries very hard and has the determination and skill it takes to be where I made it in this profession. I am very hopeful he can replace me as the best to come from Chile. He's like a son to me. His mother was my very first girlfriend. I've known him since he was a little kid."

Best horse ridden? "With all respect to all of the great horses I rode throughout my career, Manila was the best. He was so versatile and athletic, you could do anything with him."

Best horse seen? "Goldikova. She was absolutely brilliant."

Hobbies? "I love to play tennis and cards."

Future ambitions? "I want to help my jockey, Hector Berrios, have a better career than I did. He is like family to me, and I will do all I can in my power to make sure he succeeds. He's got to learn the American way of riding and learn English. I'm going to teach him the little things here and there."