10/16/2014 11:15AM

Racing community mourns death of apprentice Saez


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

KissmeCatexoxo More than 1 year ago
RIP to Juan and his family. Much too young and much too soon. He went out doing what he loved in a very tragic accident. God Bless your Soul.
Alex More than 1 year ago
So sad. This is the death of a child. I believe 17 is too young to be riding race horses. I don't care that it's been done in the past, it doesn't make it right.
Nona Kaenel More than 1 year ago
He was a man and not a child. Not too young to ride racehorses. There are kids competing in dangerous events younger than that. It's ability and not age.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Alex, you are wrong. Anyone of us can start working at age 16. By 16 we have the skill to do many sporting activities well. Jockeys should have the same rights as all of us. If they have the skill to get the license they can ride. Some riders were best back in their teens.
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
They tend to be fearless when theyre young.When they get older and a few spills and days from the stewards,many wont come up the fence.They go wide like Mike Smith.
Autumn Carew More than 1 year ago
Often seasoned jockeys go wide in order to avoid traffic jams. They've got to weigh the advantages of skimming the fence, but possibly being blocked by others; or going wide and clear yet losing ground. Mike Smith is a money maker: he wouldn't be requested to ride on so many of the best horses all over the country if he weren't winning money for the owners. He's a very smart rider....and rich.
Phil D More than 1 year ago
Condolences to the family of Juan Saez, its terrible to lose a loved one so early in life, thoughts and prayers go out to you and anyone close to him also. Being a jockey is one of the toughest sporting jobs to do, there’s no offseason like the major sports, maintain a certain weight and most of the time you are only good to your last mount. Jockeys are always taking a risk riding every day of something like this happening, as a fan you gasp and hope he or she walks away fine or a minor injury. This case is the absolute worst scenario. Once again my sympathies go out to the Saez family.
Philip Colon More than 1 year ago
Now flying down heaven back side in peace ty sir.
Gary Camejo More than 1 year ago
Back him on his last winner at keeneland loss of such talent. RIP