LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - I can’t go anywhere without getting asked the question: What do you think about the Derby decision? From the golf course to the dry cleaner.
We were the first to react on Saturday night, on immediately after NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage. Connie Leonard and I anchor the post Derby show here on WAVE 3 News.
At the time, with only the information that Country House jockey Flavien Prat was the only jockey to file an objection, I still had issues with the disqualification of Maximum Security. It didn’t seem right that Country House, who had every opportunity to run down the winner and was not affected by the incident, would move up.
- Churchill Downs announcer recalls communicating Derby disqualification
- Maximum Security: KHRC denies appeal of Derby DQ
- Maximum Security’s owner to file appeal following disqualification, horse will not run in Preakness
- Expert says Derby stewards did the right thing
- Report: Baffert issues strong objection to overturned Derby result
- Maximum Security disqualified; Country House wins the Kentucky Derby
It was not relayed to the NBC announcers that Long Range Toddy jockey Jon Court had also filed an objection, or after the decision, that Maximum Security had been placed behind him in the final finishing order.
Was Maximum Security the best horse on the track on Saturday? I think so, but War of Will may have had something to say about that had he not been stopped. Did Maximum Security impede War of Will and Long Range Toddy? I think we can all agree that that did happen.
The stewards made the right call, but they also could have handled the situation better. With the incident happening among the lead horses, they should have immediately filed a steward’s inquiry.
Not just more information after the initial objections, but also more transparency after the final race on the card. They should have taken questions from the media and could have seemingly easily defended their position.
I get the argument that all races should be officiated the same, whether a maiden claimer or a Grade I test. However, I would also argue that the Kentucky Derby is different. A field of 19, larger than any of these horses will ever run against, in front of 150,000 people, larger than any crowd they will ever run in front of. Not to mention the mud.
I don’t necessarily agree that the field size had anything to do with this particular incident.
The Kentucky Derby field is currently limited to the top 20 horses in the points standings, with a few international exceptions, like Japan’s Master Fencer. If the field had been limited to 14 horses in 2019, eventual winner Country House would have been excluded. He would have been 15th after the scratches of Omaha Beach and Haikal, and 16th counting Master Fencer.
The Kentucky Derby is one of the greatest sporting events in the world, so for the controversy to overshadow the most important day of the year in our city is unfortunate. If nothing else this incident has educated race fans and casual observers to the rules of the sport.
As I said immediately following the race, I just wish we’d get to see a rematch at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. On Tuesday we found out that neither horse will run in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Maybe what we’ll find out at Pimlico is that War of Will is the real deal.