Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky Derby 145’

Who would like an explanation of what transpired in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby?

Good, good, that’s a nice show of hands, so here we go…

For the third year in a row, it rained in Louisville, and for the second year in a row, I didn’t go to the race. Patty and I were in St. Louis for our niece’s graduation as a nurse practitioner (Master of Science in Nursing). Couldn’t miss that, although I dearly wanted to be in Louisville, even with the steady rain and sloppy track. (One of our most fun Derbies was several years ago when the occupants of the box next to us shared their tarp with us. It was a small but lively party.)

On Saturday, we were relegated to watching the race on TV at a longtime friend’s house. As it turned out, we were much better off watching on TV than being at the track because we had the benefit of numerous replays, as well as the announcers’ and commentators’ explanation of what was going on related to the jockey objections and stewards’ review immediately after the race, in which Maximum Security crossed the finish line first.

(We didn’t get to see the last five minutes of the TV broadcast because our hostess just could wait no longer to show us YouTube video of her new boyfriend playing keyboard with his band.)

…The more I watch the video of this race the more I think it’s one of the most interesting and intriguing Derbies ever run. From sheer compelling viewing, it ranks with the 1933 Derby, in which the jockeys of Brokers Tip and Head Play grabbed and whipped each other coming down the stretch. That Derby came to be known as the “Fighting Finish.” Brokers Tip won by a nose, and the stewards let the result stand because both jockeys were equally guilty.

The first time I watched the replay of Saturday’s bumping incident, I said, “They’re not going to take down Maximum Security; they’ll let the result stand.” But as the replays from different angles kept coming, I changed my mind.

The official Derby chart described the foul like this…

“Maximum Security…veered out sharply forcing War of Will out into Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress nearing the five-sixteenths pole.”

Luis Saez thought he’d won Saturday’s Kentucky Derby on Maximum Security. But 22 minutes later, Maximum Security was disqualified for interfering with three horses, including War of Will, far left, trailing Code of Honor.

In racing, veering out is a serious matter because it can put the wayward horse and others in peril.

Maximum Security’s abrupt shift to the right deprived two long shots, War of Wills and Long Range Toddy, of any chance of winning the race or finishing higher and winning more money.

The latter two were moving strongly, moving up on Maximum Security, the 9-2 favorite, who was leading. (The fourth horse involved in the tangle, Bodexpress, was farther back and caught the tail end of the mishap.)

Unlike many people, I don’t think Maximum Security would have won the race had he not bumped War of Wills and caused the chain reaction bumping. To me, it looked like War of Wills posed the greatest threat to Maximum Security. He had saved ground on the rail all the way around the track and was moving outside of Maximum Security nearing the top of the stretch. If he had not been interfered with there, I think there’s a good chance he would have passed Maximum Security and Country House and gone on to win. 

The riders of both War of Will and Long Range Toddy had to pull up briefly, and were it not for the quick, steadying hold jockey Tyler Gaffalione took on War of Will, that horse could have gone down, and several other horses could have followed in chain reaction. But for Gaffalione’s reaction, a mishap could have been a tragedy.

Obviously, it takes a while for horses to get back to full speed after having to break stride. That’s why War of Will and Long Range Toddy lost all chance of winning or finishing higher. War of Will ended up finishing eighth (behind Maximum Security), and Long Range Toddy dropped all the way back to 17th.


Watching the race live on TV, I did not see the bumping and grinding. It happened very fast, and as usual in the Derby, I was watching the primary horse I had bet on, Tacitus, who was farther back but starting to gain ground. (He ended up crossing the line fourth and being moved up to third after the DQ. I bet him to win and place but not to show.)

But then word came that an objection had been lodged by a jockey.

I’m not sure who filed the first objection — whether it was jockey Flavien Prat, who was riding Country House, or Jon Court, who was on Long Range Toddy. I’ve read conflicting accounts of which jockey filed first. At any rate, both those jockeys called the stewards and made their cases for disqualifying Maximum Security.

Oddly — and stupidly — Mark Casse, the trainer of War of Will, the horse most directly affected by the bumping, would not allow his jockey, Gaffalione, to lodge an objection…I think Casse saw his deferring as a sort of professional courtesy to the trainer of Maximum Security, Jason Servis, with the expectation (?) that Servis might some day return the favor…Like I say, stupid. This is the Kentucky Derby, you boob!    


During the 22-minute review, a couple of questions edged into my mind.

:: First, with the foul being so obvious, why hadn’t the stewards initiated what is called an “inquiry”? When there is a problem during a race, a review can be initiated afterwards in either of two ways: The stewards can declare an inquiry, or one or more jockeys can lodge objections.

At the track, a sign typically goes up on the tote board alerting the crowd there is an “inquiry” or an “objection.” Traditionally, the inquiry sign is a more likely indicator of a pending disqualification than a jockey’s objection. Many jockey objections are spurious and thrown out in short order. But inquiries mean the stewards saw something on their own and decided to examine in depth.

Chief Kentucky racing steward Barbara Borden, after Saturday’s Kentucky Derby

For some reason, Churchill Downs stewards have gotten away from initiating inquiries and, instead, have waited for jockeys to file objections. That is a very bad policy. The stewards have any number of camera angles at their disposal, and they are in the best position to quickly review races and see if anything looked askew.

A writer named Gregory A. Hall wrote this in Blood Horse Magazine…

“When an objection is lodged without the formal posting of an inquiry, it leads to what happened in the Derby: veteran race viewers operating under the assumption that whatever happened must not have been that bad because it wasn’t obvious enough that stewards called an inquiry…Just waiting for an objection leads many to believe that, but for that objection, the foul wasn’t seen and no disqualification would have resulted.”

Kentucky rules should be changed, Hall said (and I completely agree), requiring stewards to post the inquiry sign whenever they initiate a review on their own.

:: The second question that came to my mind was what the Churchill Downs crowd of 150,000 was being told about the objections and the review. It is chaotic at the track after the Derby even when the race is run clean and clear: People are either racing to the exits or rushing to the betting windows to cash tickets. But I’ll bet the vast majority of people at the track were totally confused about what was causing the extended delay in announcing the official result.

In his opinion piece, Gregory Hall said the crowd was told about the first objection but that to his knowledge they were not apprised of the second objection — actually the more important one. I wonder if  the crowd was explicitly told the objection involved a claim of interference by Maximum Security for bearing out at the five-sixteenths pole. I doubt it.

Hall said: “So the second rule change needed is that any and all objections should be announced to the crowd. Not just the first objection filed.”


It was a wild affair, and I urge you to look at this video to see just how far Maximum Security came out and how much he affected the horses beside him. I could be wrong, but I think NBC showed this particular replay just once, after showing the incident from other angles several times. This is the telling one, and it shows why the stewards ultimately took down the 9-2 favorite and gave the win to a 65-to-1 horse. In the history of the Derby, only one other Derby winner, Donerail in 1913, went off at longer odds — 91-1.

In one straightforward, unequivocal sentence (the last one), the official Derby chart summarizes exactly what happened:

“Following the stewards’ review, MAXIMUM SECURITY was disqualified and placed seventeenth for veering out and stacking up WAR OF WILL, LONG RANGE TODDY and BODEXPRESS.”

I love that term “stacking up.” That says it all, and it says why the $1.86 million, first-place money went to the connections of Country House, the most deserving horse.

(The runner-up received $600,000, the third-place finisher $300,000, fourth place $150,000 and fifth $90,000.)

…Did I mention I love it when the favorite doesn’t win (when I don’t bet it, of course)? The favorite had won six years in a row, but not this time. Heh, heh, heh…

Country House finishing second before being elevated to first

P.S. I have made two corrections and a couple of changes to this post since it first went up at 4 a.m. today. One correction was the amount of purse money the winner received, which I initially said was $3 million. That was the amount of the entire purse, divided among the top five finishers.

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