Chip Shots – Derby

by Jim Buzzerd


So, how many of you had a ticket with Maximum Security winning the Kentucky Derby last Saturday? I suspect not too many reading this were heavily involved in betting on Saturday’s race where Maximum Security, one of the favorites, was taken down as the winner following a 22 minute steward review. The beneficiary of the ruling was 65-1 long shot Country House who became the second longest shot to win in Derby history.

It’s been reported that bettors at Churchill Downs lost $9 million as a result of the decision after the stewards concluded that Maximum Security had drifted from its lane and interfered with horses that were trying chase down the leader. I don’t know anything about horse racing rules, but as I stood in a room full of people and had limited ability to hear the comments being made as the replays were shown over and over, I detected nothing out of the ordinary. Again though, I don’t know the rule and sometime on Sunday I had a better grasp of what the foul was.

Maximum Security did come off the rail and impede the path of other horses. Initially I had considered this a good racing maneuver, but later learned such a move can be deemed interference. The track was a quagmire, which I’m sure, made it difficult for the jockeys to keep the horses exactly where they wanted them on the track.

The owner of Maximum Security, Gary West, was not happy with the decision by the Commission. He felt that the decision was questionable, saying, “I think the fact that the head steward would not take any questions shows complete lack of transparency and optically appears they know they made a bad decision and needed some time to put the best possible spin on their extremely questionable decision.”

Another problem with the disqualification was the time in which it was made. The inquiry sign that is available to use at the race was not posted at the time of the incident.

Initially, it was only Country House that had a problem with Maximum Security. But Long Range Toddy came in on the accusation soon after. The inquiry sign is used to indicate to the crowd there is an issue as well as the television viewing audience.

The incident marked the very first time a winner has been disqualified in the history of the Kentucky Derby for an on-track issue. In 1968, competitor Dancer’s Image lost the win after failing a drug test post-race.

Sour grapes? Probably, but I tend to see West’s side of things more clearly. The condition of the track and the time needed to make the decision doesn’t add up to this admittedly uninformed observer.

I did get a chuckle on Sunday reading a WVU sports forum when somebody asked the question, “Who knew Big 12 refs were also race stewards?”