10/16/2014 10:15AM

Racing community mourns death of apprentice Saez

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Friends and racetrack supporters were organizing charitable funds and tending to logistical matters Thursday following the tragic death of Juan Saez, the 17-year-old apprentice rider who died Tuesday night in Indianapolis from injuries suffered in a spill at Indiana Grand.

Julio Espinoza, the agent and father figure to Saez, said that because of paperwork and other international regulations, the body would not be shipped to Saez’s family in Panama until Oct. 23 or 24. Espinoza said the family has turned down offers of financial assistance but that charitable memorials in Saez’s name are being set up.

Terry Meyocks, national manager for the Jockeys’ Guild, said contributions are being accepted by the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Those seeking further information or to contribute can do so by accessing Facebook, Twitter, or other online sites.

Espinoza said he has been in contact with Saez’s family, including his mother, father, and brother, Luis, a standout jockey in New York who happened to be home with the family at the time of his younger brother’s death. Luis Saez plans to take time off before returning Oct. 29 to ride on opening day at Aqueduct.

“The family wants to make sure to thank everyone for their outpouring of support in this extremely difficult time,” said Espinoza. “It means so very, very much to them.”

Juan Saez, a graduate of the famed Laffit Pincay Jr. riding academy in Panama, began his riding career in his homeland in December. He rode his first race in America in June at Churchill Downs before going on to win 89 races, a leading-jockey title at Ellis Park, and more than $2 million in purse earnings.

Saez died from severe head trauma several hours after his mount in the eighth race Tuesday, Montezuma Express, clipped heels and threw him, after which Saez was struck by a trailing horse.

Indiana Grand canceled the remaining race that evening as well as the entire Wednesday card. A memorial ceremony was scheduled to be held there Thursday.

In Kentucky, where Saez lived at the Espinoza residence and did most of his riding, a moment of silence was held in his honor Wednesday at Keeneland. A Churchill Downs spokesman said Thursday that details were being finalized on a planned tribute to the fallen rider.

– additional reporting by David Grening