Columnists Sound Off On Kentucky Derby Disqualification

by | 05.05.2019 | 1:44pm
The lonely walk home for disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security

For the first time in its 145-year history, there was a racetrack disqualification of the first-place finisher of the Kentucky Derby. Maximum Security crossed the wire 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Country House, but an incident at the five-sixteenths pole sent Kentucky stewards into a 22-minute review which resulted in Maximum Security's disqualification to seventeenth.

The decision was controversial across social media and columnists across the sports-writing genre.

Mike Watchmaker – Daily Racing Form

“Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez committed a legitimate foul – on War of Will, at the very least – and they had to pay the piper for it. And what also matters is, what would universally be considered a foul in every other horse race in the United States is now also considered a foul in the Kentucky Derby. The Derby no longer has an unspoken exemption. And that is a very good thing.”

Joe Drape – New York Times

“This has not been horse racing's finest hour: dead horses at Santa Anita Park and consternation among horse people that they can treat their athletes better but have failed to do so. It's little wonder then that the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday ended in astonishment, controversy and confusion.

“The Kentucky Derby, much like the Super Bowl, has become a place to see and be seen. Celebrities and wealthy people are everywhere, making the weekend a party with a race as the main distraction. On Saturday, Maximum Security won America's most famous race on the track. Until he didn't.”

Tim Layden – Sports Illustrated

“What's unknown is unknown forever, but it seems unlikely that Country House would have caught Maximum Security no matter how far they ran. War of Will is another matter. But it's difficult to imagine the carnage that would have ensued if Gaffalione had not kept War of Will upright. However: It is baffling that the stewards watched that rodeo and did not instantly initiate a stewards' inquiry into the finish, which is standard practice when there might have been fouls. Also: For the stewards to refuse questions after changing the order of finish in the Kentucky Derby for the first time in history is a terrible look that will not age well.”

Pat Forde – Yahoo Sports

“Given the controversies about animal safety that have dogged the sport since a spate of fatal breakdowns in California last winter, Gaffalione might actually have saved horse racing from a truly awful day. His quick reaction aboard War of Will prevented a possible spill that may have taken out much of the 19-horse field.”

Gary Graves – Associated Press (Washington Post)

“'I think this is the most egregious disqualification in the history of horse racing, and not just because it's our horse,' West told The Associated Press by phone Saturday night.”

Reinier Mactanganay – Horse Racing Nation

“In most instances, it is better to reward the bettors. If the discussed foul did not cost any horse a placing, then let the finish stand as it is.

“But in this case, War of Will moved like a candidate to hit the board. His momentum was halted by Maximum Security's actions, and that was unfair for him. If it only involved Long Range Toddy, who had nothing left, then maybe a bigger argument existed for Maximum Security.”

Tim Sullivan – Courier Journal

“In their unanimous decision to declare Country House the winner of Derby 145, the stewards did their duty and did horse racing an inestimable service.

“In changing the outcome based on an objection, chief state steward Barbara Borden and her associates, Brooks Becraft and Tyler Picklesimer, succeeded in changing the subject for a sport that had been under siege following a rash of racetrack fatalities.”

Jim Chairusmi – Wall Street Journal

“The ruling—after Maximum Security abruptly cut off a rival and disrupted the field behind him—was seemingly intended to emphasize safety after a dismal winter for the sport in which a spate of unexplained horse deaths at Santa Anita Park In Southern California inflamed debates about safety and the future of the sport in general.

“But the disqualification was nonetheless a nightmare scenario that the horse-racing industry couldn't afford.”

Dan Wolken – USA Today

“Unless you had a ticket on Country House at 65-to-1, making him the second-biggest long shot to ever win the Derby, what happened Saturday was nothing to celebrate. If anything, it only highlighted the notion that horse racing is a sport operating without a centralized regulating body and an embarrassing lack of transparency. And it brings up questions like this: Would these three people have made the same decision if Maximum Security was trained by a star like Bob Baffert and not a relative no-name like Jason Servis? Servis has been dogged by whispers from inside the industry that an uptick in winning percentage the last two years was the result of something other than his training methods.”

David Magee – Newsweek

“This was the Kentucky Derby win that soured Mint Juleps. It was supposed to be either trainer Bob Baffert's day or Maximum Security's day. There didn't seem room for another horse or trainer in the buildup.”

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