‘Not Subject To Judicial Review’: Federal Judge Dismisses Wests’ Kentucky Derby Lawsuit

by | 11.16.2019 | 12:28am
The lonely walk home for disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security

On Friday, federal judge Karen Caldwell dismissed the lawsuit filed by Gary and Mary West, owners of Maximum Security, regarding the colt's historic disqualification from the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Kentucky stewards officially placed Maximum Security 17th, disqualifying him from first due to interference nearing the top of the stretch and making runner-up Country House the official winner. The Wests, after having an appeal to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission denied, filed suit against the commission, its members and executive director, and the three stewards who disqualified Maximum Security an effort to overturn that decision.

“Kentucky's regulations make clear that the disqualification is not subject to judicial review,” reads Caldwell's opinion. “Further, the disqualification procedure does not implicate an interest protected under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Accordingly, the Court must grant the motion to dismiss.”

One of the primary reasons the KHRC filed a motion to dismiss in June was that Kentucky regulations specifically state that a horse's disqualification for a foul committed during the race is “final and shall not be subject to appeal.”

“In their response, the Wests do not explain why the Court should simply ignore this regulation and conduct an appellate review of the stewards' decision,” Caldwell noted in her opinion.

The Wests' other contention was that the disqualification represented a violation to their right to due process.

“The Kentucky Court of Appeals has faced this issue before,” explained Caldwell. “In March v. Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, like here, the plaintiff's horse crossed the finish line first, but the stewards disqualified the horse after finding that his jockey had committed a foul. The plaintiff filed an action in Kentucky state court. Among other claims, the plaintiff argued that the decision violated due process because it required him to forfeit the purse money without a hearing. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument, finding that the plaintiff “never had an entitlement to the purse monies because [his horse] did not win the race.” The plaintiff was not required to “forfeit” the purse, “he simply did not win it to begin with.” As was the case in March, the West's “interest in the purse money does not constitute the required protected property interest” that would permit a due process challenge.”

Caldwell ruled that the judgment is final but appealable. Gary West told the Paulick Report a decision has not been made whether or not to appeal.

The full opinion can be found here: West v Ky Horse Racing Commission.

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