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Gaffalione Fined for Kentucky Derby Ride

Kentucky stewards fined jockey Tyler Gaffalione $2,500 for his ride on Sierra Leone  during the 150th Kentucky Derby (G1) run May 4 at Churchill Downs, according to a May 10 ruling released by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Gaffalione and his mount Sierra Leone were locked in a gritty, stirrup-banging battle with Japanese contender Forever Young  and rider Ryusei Sakai from the eighth pole to the wire, where a nose separated them behind victorious Mystik Dan .

According to a May 10 stewards ruling, Gaffalione was fined for “touching a rival with his left hand nearing the finish while aboard Sierra Leone.” The rider has 30 days to pay the fine.

Sierra Leone started lugging in at the eighth pole, where he was about six paths off the rail. By the time he and Forever Young reached the wire, the pair had pushed in to be in the second and third paths. Also during the bumping, photographs show Gaffalione at one point extending his left arm out toward Forever Young and appears to be touching the horse right in front of the saddle pad, though not grabbing anything because he was holding his crop in his left hand. Sierra Leone would finish a nose in front of Forever Young.

The stewards did not initiate an inquiry after the race, nor did Sakai claim foul.

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Stewards can disqualify a horse if they believe a foul during a race potentially cost an impacted horse a placing.

Angst: What’s Going On Here: Not Seeing the Light

Stewards later reviewed the stretch battle between Sierra Leone and Forever Young during the afternoon of May 9. A source familiar with the review said part of Gaffalione’s defense was that his left foot got lodged behind Sakai’s right foot while in tight quarters, and he had lost his balance. He extended his arm only to prevent falling.

Both Gaffalione and his agent, Matt Muzikar, declined to comment on the KHRC decision.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated Tyler Gaffalione faced neither a fine nor suspension based on information from multiple sources. BloodHorse obtained a copy of the stewards ruling at 3:30 p.m. ET Friday.

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