Appeals Judge Upholds Ruling in Funny Cide Case

The Florida District Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Miami Herald in a defamation case filed by the owners of Funny Cide, winner of the 2003 Kentucky Derby.

The case centered around the Herald’s false allegations--later retracted by the paper--that jockey Jose Santos used an electronic device to prod Sackatoga Stable’s gelding during the running of the race at Churchill Downs. Following Funny Cide’s victory in the Preakness Stakes and third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, Sackatoga sued the Herald, claiming pressure from the paper’s false assertions had caused the jockey to over-ride the horse and lose the Triple Crown. 

The appellate court May 16 upheld a lower court’s ruling that there were no provable damages in the case. 

"We need not labor in this case ... where damages become too speculative for trial," wrote Judge Gary M. Farmer. "Here it is enough for us to say the theory behind the loss of a Belmont win may be this side of possible but it is a long way from being directly and immediately caused by the Herald’s articles, or from being the foreseeable and normal consequences of disparagement."

Farmer’s opinion stepped away from traditional legal writing with what some might consider a flippant approach to the case.

"Sure, there was some racket in the press afterwards," he wrote in his background statement. "The Miami newspaper said it saw something in the jockey’s hand, some illegal electric thing, maybe to spark the horse. Turns out the paper was seeing a fantasy in a shadow and retracted the story. But the noise had already begun…"

Farmer quoted the Bible, the theatrical production "Guys and Dolls," and a book entitled "Goodbye to Law Reviews" in his seven-page opinion on the case.

Jack Knowlton, managing partner of Sackatoga Stable, declined to comment on the situation, saying he wanted to contact his attorney.
An appeals court has yet to rule on a separate case field by Jose and Rita Santos with Funny Cide Ventures against the Miami Herald's parent compay, Knight-Ridder Inc.

(Originally published at

About the Author

Claire Novak

Winner of the 2011 Eclipse Award for Feature/Commentary and the 2008 Louisville Metro Journalism Award for Sports Writing, Claire Novak has melded her love for human-interest journalism and the equine breed into a successful Turf writing career. Since her first freelance article on racing was published at in 2005, her byline has appeared in the New York Times, ESPN The Magazine, and on, among others. She lives near Lexington and, when not writing about racing, can often be found jumping her Thoroughbred, Bob.

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