The drama at the Kentucky Derby capped a weekend of captivating racing.
The stewards at Churchill Downs were certainly brave in making the decision to disqualify the winner Maximim Security, but whether it was the correct one will be debated for years to come.
The rule the stewards referred to states: “If a leading horse or any other horse in a race swerves or is ridden to either side so as to interfere with, intimidate, or impede any other horse or jockey, or to cause the same result, this action shall be deemed a foul. … If, in the opinion of the stewards, a foul alters the finish of a race, an offending horse may be disqualified by the stewards.”
So, the first decision the stewards had to make was whether a foul had taken place.
The answer to that question was a clear cut yes.
Maximum Security, who led from pillar to post in sloppy conditions, veers away from the rail rounding the final turn at the top of the straight. He thus impedes War Of Wills. The latter’s momentum was not only affected but he is forced outward and in doing so bumps Country House.
Probably the most badly impeded horse was Long Rainge Toddy, who was squeezed out between War Of Wills and Country House.
The stewards now had to decide whether the foul had altered the result.
After the incident Maximum Security runs back towards the rail and then in the straight he fends off all challengers bravely.
He crosses the line full of running, 1,75 lengths clear of Country House.
A long 22 minutes later the stewards announced their unanimous decision to disqualify Maximum Security.
The objection was lodged by jockey Flavien Prat, the rider of Country House, and this is the chief the decision has been deemed controversial as Country House was not badly affected by the incident.
Country’s House’s trainer Bill Mott admitted his horse had only been affected “slightly.”
He said, “It may have affected us slightly, but I would say it affected the other two horses dramatically. . . . They lost all chance, and those two horses lost their opportunity to win or place.”
Prat and Mott said the horse, and not the jockey, had caused the interference.
Maximum Security’s jockey Luis Saez said, “My horse shied away from the noise of the crowd and may have ducked out a little.”
Maximum Security’s trainer Jason Servis said, “I don’t think it changed the outcome of the race. It looks like something scared him in the infield, but I haven’t been able to watch it that close.”
However, Country House is now in the record books and at 65/1 odds is the second longest shot to win the famous “run for the roses” after 91/1 Donerail in 1913.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott thus scored his first Kentucky Derby victory in his tenth attempt spread over 35 years.
It was Flavien Prat’s first win in his third attempt.
Maximum Security could have been claimed for US$16,000 before his debut, when Servis entered him in a maiden claimer.
He was the only unbeaten horse going into Saturday’s race and started 9/2 second favourite.
Most pundits believe he then proved himself the best horse in the race.
President Donald Trump also believed so and said on twitter, “The Kentucky Derby decision was not a good one. It was a rough and tumble race on a wet and sloppy track, actually, a beautiful thing to watch. Only in these days of political correctness could such an overturn occur. The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby – not even close!”
By David Thiselton