An appeal by the owners of the disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security was denied by state regulators on Monday just hours after it had been filed. The decision left the legal system as the only recourse to have the colt declared the champion of America’s most famous horse race.
Gary West, who owns Maximum Security with his wife, Mary, said Monday he was skipping the Preakness Stakes, the second race in the Triple Crown competition.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, in a letter from its general counsel, John L. Forgy, said the disqualification was not subject to appeal. It was not immediately clear whether West planned to take the next step and file a lawsuit over the ruling.
The appeal, filed by the lawyer Barry Stilz on behalf of the Wests in Lexington, Ky., requested that all Derby purse money be placed in escrow “pending final determination.” It also requested access to video replays; notes from the stewards who ruled that Maximum Security had interfered with another horse; and the statements from trainers and jockeys that stewards used in their decision-making process.
West had harsh words Monday for Churchill Downs Racetrack, the host of the Derby, calling it a “greedy organization” for allowing a 20-horse field. Most prestigious races in the United States cap fields at 14.
“Churchill Downs, because they’re a greedy organization, rather than 14 like you have in the Kentucky Oaks and the Breeder’s Cup and 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,” he said in an interview on “The Today Show” on NBC.
It was more than an emotional loss for the Wests. A $1.86 million first place check slipped through their fingers when the colt was disqualified and moved to 17th place, but the bigger impact was to Maximum Security’s value as a stallion.
If his victory stood, Maximum Security’s value would have catapulted to $20 million. Another victory in the Preakness would have doubled it, while a Triple Crown sweep could have meant up to $60 million.
After skipping the Preakness, Maximum Security, even if he returns to win the Belmont Stakes, would have a stud value of roughly $5 million to $8 million, according to blood stock analysts.
Ever since the Derby expanded to a 20-horse field in 1975, America’s most famous horse race has earned a reputation for its bumps and traffic troubles. Its outcome is most often decided by which jockey keeps his horse out of trouble.
“We understand that the Wests are disappointed that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards disqualified Maximum Security,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs.
“However, the stewards are responsible for regulating and enforcing the rules of racing in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and we respect and support their decision. The infraction committed by Maximum Security has nothing to do with the number of horses in the race, which has been a consistent number for many years, and there is no evidence to the contrary.”
Before Saturday, an apparent Derby champion had never been disqualified for a foul on the track. A 1968 victory by Dancer’s Image was overturned days later because of a positive drug test, starting a legal battle that lasted four years and ended with Forward Pass