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• There is no evidence that Sonny Leon, the winning jockey from the 2022 Kentucky Derby, made that remark, or that he received or declined an invitation to the White House.
• A joke about Kentucky Derby winners declining White House invitations has been circulating since at least 2018 — when it was attributed to a horse — and has been debunked.
This claim did not come straight from the horse’s mouth: Social media users said Sonny Leon, the winning jockey from this year’s Kentucky Derby, turned down a White House invite and insulted President Joe Biden. But it’s a recycled joke, circulating since at least 2018, that’s been debunked.
A May 8 post on Facebook says, "148th Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike jockey Sonny Leon just turned down a White House invite, saying 'If I wanted to see a horse's ass, I would have came (sic) in second.’"
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Leon rode the colt, Rich Strike, to a first-place win on May 7 in the Kentucky Derby, a victory that was the second-biggest upset in the race’s history. But there is no evidence that Leon made that remark about Biden, based on Leon’s Twitter profile, video footage of his post-race comments and jockey comments released by the Derby. We also did not find any credible stories that included those remarks.
There also is no evidence — such as White House press releases or credible news stories — that Leon received or declined an invitation to the White House.
In 2018, in what was clearly a joke, the same quote was attributed to the horse, Justify, that year’s winner of the Kentucky Derby and the prestigious Triple Crown, awarded to a three-year-old Thoroughbred horse that wins the Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes in a single season.
"Breaking: #Justify turns down invitation to White House," read one June 9, 2018, viral tweet. "Asked why, the #TripleCrown winner said,"If I wanted to see a horse’s ass, I would’ve finished second." At that time, former President Donald Trump was in office.
In 2021, the joke eluded folks when it was changed to falsely attribute the quote to a real person: jockey John Velazquez, who won the Kentucky Derby that year.
But Velazquez didn’t say it and neither did Leon.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
Britannica, "Triple Crown," accessed May 10, 2022
Facebook post, May 8, 2022
Kentucky Derby, "Jockey Quotes From The 148th Running Of The Kentucky Derby," May 8, 2022
Lexington Herald Leader, "Sonny Leon, the jockey no one had heard of, rides a Kentucky Derby no one will forget," May 9, 2022
New York Times, "A Knave Competed in the Sport of Kings, and Instantly Became One," May 7, 2022
New York Times, "Simply Perfect: Justify Wins the Triple Crown," June 9, 2018
NPR, "Justify Breaks 136-Year-Old Curse To Win The Kentucky Derby," May 5, 2018
PolitiFact, "No, John Velazquez didn’t call Joe Biden a horse’s ass," May 3, 2021
Twitter profile, accessed May 9, 2022
White House, "Briefing Room," accessed May 9, 2022
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