12/06/2014 5:28PM

Stewards suspend Lopez, Franco for 15 days following Friday incident


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The New York stewards suspended jockeys C.C. Lopez and Manuel Franco both 15 days for careless riding as a result of a spill Friday at Aqueduct that left two horses dead.

Though he had not yet officially done so, Lopez said Saturday afternoon he plans to appeal his suspension. Franco said Saturday afternoon he had not yet decided if he would appeal.

“I think it’s unjust. What they’re doing is unfair,” Lopez said Saturday. “They don’t need to make me an example for what happened a few months back.”

Lopez was referring to the incident in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 27 in which Wicked Strong clipped heels with Moreno about 4  1/2 furlongs from the wire. Wicked Strong stumbled and unseated jockey Rajiv Maragh, who broke an arm.

For that incident, jockey Junior Alvarado received a 15-day suspension. He initially appealed but dropped that appeal while he’s out rehabilitating from an injury. The stewards let him take his days starting Dec. 1, claiming Alvarado had presented them a doctor’s note clearing him to ride.

In Friday’s race, Lopez was aboard Sol the Freud, who drifted out in mid-stretch, while Franco was aboard American Creed, who drifted in, causing Quick Money, ridden by Angel Serpa, to clip heels and fall.

Laila’s Jazz, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, fell over Quick Money, and Half Nelson fell over Laila’s Jazz.

Quick Money died on impact, suffering a broken neck. Half Nelson was vanned off and euthanized a short time later due to a broken shoulder. Laila’s Jazz was not reported to have been injured.

Velasquez suffered a broken left collarbone and will be sidelined for a month. Neither Serpa nor Israel Rodriguez, the rider of Half Nelson was injured.

Lopez said the severity of the penalty is “what you give when someone goes out of his way to hurt somebody.”

“[Serpa] ran into the back of me, and I get blamed?”

Franco said he felt the 15-day suspension was “not fair” but he had yet to talk with his agent to discuss whether or not to appeal.