The owners of Maximum Security filed suit in federal court Wednesday to overturn the disqualification of their colt in the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Maximum Security, with Luis Saez aboard, led nearly every step of the way and finished first, but officials disqualified the horse and placed him 17th because he appeared to jump a puddle on a wet, sloppy Churchill Downs racetrack.
The move set off a chain reaction that stopped the progress of horses trailing Maximum Security and prompted racing officials to move the runner-up, Country House, to first place.
Maximum Security’s owners, Gary and Mary West, contend the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and its stewards at Churchill Downs made the wrong call. Officials with the racing commission were not immediately available for comment.
“The insubstantiality of the evidence relied on by the stewards to disqualify Maximum Security, and the bizarre and unconstitutional process to which the Plaintiffs were subjected before and after the disqualification, are the subjects of this action,” a lawyer for the Wests contended in the complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Last week, the Wests’ initial appeal of the disqualification was turned down within hours because the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission rules state that the stewards’ findings about what happens in a race “shall be final and not subject to appeal.”
On Derby day, after a 22-minute delay, Kentucky’s chief steward, Barbara Borden, and her colleagues found that Maximum Security had interfered with the progress of War of Will, who then impeded Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress.
On Monday, the commission suspended Saez for 15 racing days after determining his ride aboard Maximum Security interfered with other riders. He is appealing the suspension.
The remedy requested in the suit is a reversal of the decision disqualifying Maximum Security and reinstatement of the original order of finish confirming that Maximum Security is the official winner of the Derby and remains undefeated.
The complaint acknowledges that the Wests suffered an emotional setback, as well as a costly one, when Maximum Security was taken down for interference. Beyond a $1.86 million first-place check, if his victory stood, Maximum Security’s value as a stallion would have catapulted to roughly $20 million.
“As a result of the disqualification,” according to the complaint, “the trainer and the jockey of Maximum Security were denied any part of the $1,860,000 share of the Derby purse as well as a professional accomplishment that any horseman would cherish for life, plus the very substantial value that a Kentucky Derby winner has as a stallion.”