COLLINSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Illinois state racing officials are investigating whether jockeys conspired to throw a race to let a 70-year-old rider potentially make history.

At issue was whether riders in the July 23 race at Fairmount Park near Collinsville east of St. Louis tried to let R.A. "Cowboy" Jones win the race, making him the first known rider to win a thoroughbred race in seven different decades. Jones ended up finishing second, atop My Kentucky Breeze.

Uriel Lopez won the race aboard Ola D., outdistancing Jones by nearly two lengths.

Patrick Bovenzi is an Illinois state steward investigating the matter. He says everything is being reviewed.

It's not immediately clear how long the probe may take.

The park says in a statement the jockeys are independent contractors unaffiliated with the track.

My Kentucky Breeze owner Dale "Ben" Wessel welcomed the investigation because, he said, that's what the Illinois Racing Board is supposed to do, but he believes there was no wrong-doing. He said he was surprised to learn about the investigation Sunday night in media reports but has not been contacted by investigators.

"The Racing Board is supposed to do these types of investigations and the evidence will show what it shows. I know that we ... haven't done anything wrong and I don't believe any other contestant has done anything wrong. The winner was the best horse," Wessel said, adding that he is a steward of the IRB to officiate standardbred horse races in Springfield, Du Quoin, Maywood Park and Balmoral Park.

Wessel said Lopez knew he had the race won and had no need to whip Ola D. either before or after taking the lead down the stretch. The horse, which Wessel said is in a higher class than others in the field that day, won by a length and three-quarters.

My Kentucky Breeze is a 5-year-old maiden and winless in 19 lifetime starts though she has three consecutive second-place finishes and a third-place finish in her five previous starts at Fairmont Park.

There also was no need to whip Magnificent Mandy, a horse that has never beaten My Kentucky Breeze. If the jockey knows he is getting everything he can from the horse, whipping the thoroughbred isn't going to make him or her race harder, Wessel said. With purse money at stake, and reputations, a jockey will attempt to finish as high as possible, he added.

"The third-place finisher was a tired horse that (the jockey) didn't abuse in the stretch run," Wessel commented. "He was going to be third, he has never beaten us, and quite frankly I don't think he ever will beat us."

As for so-call evidence that Lopez blew the last turn by going wide, Wessel said that isn't uncommon if the horse is running too fast or isn't positioned to avoid running wide. While he welcomes the investigation, Wessel also called it an unfortunate distraction from what was intended to be a positive story for horseracing by hiring Jones.

"I wanted to give Cowboy a chance to set history, that's what I was attempting to do. I had a good horse I thought was competitive. We had a lot of fun down there... we gave it our best effort. I think that Uriel Lopez clearly gave it the best effort because he won the race."

Nick Mariano of The Southern Illinoisan contributed information to this report.

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