The winner didn’t win the Kentucky Derby.
News headlines immediately flashed Maximum Security won the 145th running on a muddy Churchill Downs track Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky.
Minutes later the positive excited announcer tone of expression completely changed: “There’s been an inquiry?”
Not much later, “Country House is the Kentucky Derby winner.”
Confusion, complaints and threats were immediate.
Debate continued sometimes becoming rage and will likely turn into lawsuits, countersuits, big money conflicts, long lived court cases.
A horserace to be remembered forever, reviewed, talked about incessantly pro and con whenever Kentucky Derby is mentioned.
Overall impact on the horse racing industry, a major economic and spectator sport around the world, will be negative.
It was a surreal turn of events for the muddy 145th Run for the Roses. The 2019 Kentucky Derby will generate controversy for years to come in the highbrow world of horse racing.
In a nearly unprecedented move, the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security, ridden by jockey Luis Saez, was disqualified. The victory then was awarded to the second-place finisher, Country House and jockey Flavien Prat.
That Maximum Security was the clear winner wasn’t in dispute. The disqualification had everything to do with behavior in the midst of the race.
It was a moment when the horse veered out of its lane and interfered with the runs of a pair of competitors.
Barbara Borden, Kentucky’s chief steward, made a public statement several hours after the race. “The riders of 18 (Long Range Toddy) and 20 (Country House) lodged objections against 7 (Maximum Security) the winner,” she said.
“The jockeys claimed there was interference turning for home, leaving the quarter pole,” Borden said. “We had a lengthy review of the race.
“We interviewed affected riders. We determined that the 7 horse drifted out impacting progress of 1 (War of Will). That in turn interfered with 18 and 21 (Bodexpress),” the steward explained.
“Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference,” Borden emphasized. “Therefore, we unanimously determined to disqualify No. 7. He was then ranked behind 18, the lowest-placed horse that he bothered, which is our typical procedure.”
To clarify, two jockeys objected to Maximum Security’s interference with the other horses. Officials reviewed footage and after what seemed an inordinately long 22-mnute review found the objections valid.
Maximum Security finished 1¾ lengths ahead of 65-1 longshot Country House who was declared the winner. That resulted in the second-largest win payout ever at $132.40.
Odds are defined as “the return one can expect to get if the horse bet on is successful.” It reflects the amount of money bet on a horse. The more money invested, the shorter the odds.
When horse racing odds are shown in the form of 7-2, it expresses the amount of profit to the amount invested. So, odds of 7-2 mean that for every $2 invested, the punter gets $7 profit in return.
Only one other horse has ever been disqualified after a Derby win. The 1968 first-place finisher Dancer’s Image tested positive for drugs.
Gary West, irate owner of Maximum Security, said, “I think because the steward won’t take questions shows lack of transparency. It optically appears they know they made a bad decision. The stewards needed some time to put the best possible spin on their extremely questionable decision.”
Long Range Toddy jockey Jon Court joined Prat in lodging the objection against rider Luis Saez and Maximum Security. They claimed the horse abruptly moved away from the rail, impeding their progress around the turn for home.
Part of issue is that the stewards never posted an inquiry sign to the 150,729 spectators and vast television audience.
Borden works with state steward Brooks Becraft and with Churchill Downs-appointed Tyler Picklesimer.
“I got turned sideways one way and then got jacked back the other way and I was eliminated,” Court said.
Long Range Toddy faded to 17th after being checked hard. War of Will, also checked by Tyler Gaffalione, wound up eighth. Surprisingly, Gaffalione never formally objected.
Casse attributed the amount of time taken to disqualify Maximum Security to the magnitude of the decision. It not only altered history but resulted in a massive shift in wagering dollars.
The Daily Racing Form’s Mike Watchmaker questioned why the stewards did not indicate they were initiating their own inquiry. But, he praised them for ultimately getting it right.
“I understand that it doesn’t look great that the stewards didn’t see it themselves,” Watchmaker said, “but its there.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott finally broke through in a quest to win the Derby that began in 1984. Yet he was hardly elated.
“I’d be lying if I said it was the best way to do it,” Mott admitted..
The crowd at Churchill Downs booed the decision and the end result as well. Many of those booing likely lost a bet, but there was also feeling that officials had gone too far.
Jockey Luis Saez said after the turnaround that he “never put anybody in danger.”
Maximum Security, said Saez, simply “shied away from the noise of the crowd and may have ducked out a little.” Maximum Security came into the 2019 Kentucky Derby with four wins in four races
Here’s how the payouts looked after the reshuffle at the top, which paid out huge given Country House’s extremely long odds.
Country House: $132.40 (Win), $56.60 (Place), $24.60 (Show): Code of Honor: $15.20 (Place), $9.80 (Show); and Tacitus: $5.60 (Show).
Official results: 1, Country House; 2, Code Of Honor; 3, Tacitus; 4, Improbable; 5, Game Winner; 6, Master Fencer; 7, War of Will; 8, Plus Que Parfait; 9, Win Win Win; 10, Cutting Humor; 11, By My Standards; 12, Vekoma; 13, Bodexpress; 14, Tax; 15, Roadster; 16, Long Range Toddy; and 17, Spinoff.