The owners of Maximum Security plan to file an appeal with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, contending that their horse should be declared the rightful winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby, owner Gary West told the “Today” show on Monday.
Maximum Security will also skip the Preakness, West said.
“We are going to file an appeal today with the state racing commission,” West said. “Right after the race, I had the trainer call the stewards and very nicely ask them if they would be willing to visit with us after the races were over. I said, ‘We’ll stay here until 11, 12 o’clock at night, whatever you want,’ and they said, ‘Absolutely not, we won’t be showing the films until Thursday.’ We didn’t really have any alternative legally … the appeal has to be filed within 48 hours.”
Maximum Security was disqualified from first by the racing stewards and placed 17th in the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. It was the first disqualification due to race riding in the history of the event. The stewards took 22 minutes to declare runner-up Country House the winner after deciding that Maximum Security interfered with several horses when he drifted out from the rail on the final turn.
“It was literally like the old TV show, ‘the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,’ all within a 22-minute period of time,” West said. “Winning it was the most euphoric thing I have probably ever had in our lives, and disappointment when they took the horse down for the first time in history, we were stunned, shocked and in total disbelief. It had never been done before.”
KHRC does not actually allow for an appeal, so West is likely fighting an uphill battle. According to the rules, stewards are responsible for “all findings of fact as to all matters occurring during and incident to the running of a race,” and “findings of fact and determination shall be final and not subject to appeal.”
Marc Guilfoil, executive director of the KHRC, also backed the stewards on Sunday in an interview with Blood Horse magazine. West said this is a particularly unique circumstance.
“I think this is something that’s big enough that the entire racing world is looking at this, and I think they deserve an opportunity to really know what was going on,” West said. “I was a bit shocked and surprised that the stewards wrote a statement that was probably prepared by their lawyers and refused, literally refused, to take questions from the media. So they’ve been about as nontransparent about this whole thing as anything I’ve ever seen in my life.”
West said he understood that his horse came over in front of another horse, but he said that’s going to happen in such a big field of horses. The Kentucky Derby allows 20 entrants, the biggest field in North American thoroughbred racing.
“You shouldn’t have 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs, because they’re a greedy organization, has [20 horses] rather than 14 like you have in the Kentucky Oaks, the Breeders’ Cup, every other race in America. Just because they can make more money, they’re willing to risk horses’ lives and people’s lives to do that. I’m not a fan of that. I think you should have 14 like every other race …
“Yes, I saw the horse move out, but every Kentucky Derby, you could set down two or three or four horses if you wanted to, because it’s like a rodeo out there.”
West also said he found it strange that the stewards did not file a stewards’ inquiry. While stewards can file their own inquiry after the race if they see fit, in this situation, the jockeys of Country House and 16th-place finisher Long Range Toddy both filed objections against Maximum Security.
“They looked at exactly what the rest of the world looked at, and they didn’t file a stewards’ inquiry. So I can’t imagine it was very obvious to them at the time, either.”
The only other Kentucky Derby disqualification came in 1968, when Dancer’s Image won and was disqualified several days later after trace amounts of a then-banned drug was found in his system.
The owners of Dancer’s Image went to court to contend that he should be the rightful winner. The legal battle dragged out several years, and while they initially won their case, it was overturned on appeal.