He won the Kentucky Derby in May. He’ll spend October serving a suspension.

Sonny Leon, the winning jockey aboard Rich Strike in the 2022 Kentucky Derby, has been suspended 15 racing days by state stewards after an incident at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

The stewards’ ruling issued Sunday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission accused Leon of “intentionally attempting to interfere with and impede the progress of a rival by repeatedly making physical contact with another rider in the stretch.”

Leon will not be allowed to race on Oct. 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28 and 29.

He would be eligible to ride Rich Strike in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington if the horse’s handlers decided to enter.

The incident for which Leon was suspended took place in Saturday’s $500,000, Grade 2 Lukas Classic Stakes in Louisville.

Rich Strike and Leon engaged eventual winner Hot Rod Charlie and Tyler Gaffalione in the stretch and the pair waged a spirited duel to the finish. Video from the encounter appeared to show Leon leaning to his left and repeatedly elbowing Gaffalione as the horses raced toward the finish line.

Hot Rod Charlie, runner-up in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, defeated Rich Strike, the 80-1 long-shot winner of this year’s Derby, by a head in a photo finish in the Lukas Classic.

According to a report by Horse Racing Nation, Leon told Rich Strike trainer Eric Reed that his saddle became loose and caused him to lean to the left. The Daily Racing Form reported that Leon will not appeal the suspension, reportedly one of several for the 32-year-old jockey from Venezuela in the past year.

Reed has not yet announced whether he’ll enter Rich Strike in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the $6 million showcase of the World Championships at Keeneland on Nov. 4-5.

“It’s a tough beat, but we are so proud of the step forward our horse took today,” Reed told BloodHorse of the 3-year-old Rich Strike after Saturday’s race. “It was a big ask of him to run against these type of older horses, and he proved he is just as talented. He was a little bit closer to the pace today, but he was still able to fight hard to the wire.”

Jockey Sonny Leon, riding Rich Strike, parades around with the garland of roses after winning the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7.
Jockey Sonny Leon, riding Rich Strike, parades around with the garland of roses after winning the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7.