Kentucky Derby 145 made the kind of history America’s premier race probably did not want to make Saturday when morning line 9-2 second choice Maximum Security was disqualified from a 1 1/2-length win and 65-1 longest shot runner up Country House was declared the winner by Churchill Downs stewards.
The disqualification followed an objection raised by Country House jockey Flavien Prat for an event that occurred near the final turn before the stretch run on the muddy track.
Undefeated Maximum Security under jockey Luis Saez had grabbed an early lead and maintained it when challenged coming around the final turn by War of Will. Maximum Security veered out of his lane forcing War of Will jockey Tyler Gaffalione to steady his mount and lose ground, also interfering with Long Range Toddy under Jon Court. Country House on the far outside was unaffected by the incident, though Prat would later say he might have been “bumped a little.”
“The crowd was screaming and he’s a baby you know,” said an upset Saez as stewards reviewed the replay.
Saez maintained he had done nothing wrong and did his best to keep Maximum Security in his lane. “I grabbed him right away to keep him straight. I never put anybody in danger.”
The crowd noise at Churchill from the 150,000-plus crowd during the Derby is notoriously boisterous as horses approach the stretch to the point of actually shaking the grandstand.
The replay does show Maximum Security coming off his lane and moving outside across nearly two lanes, forcing War of Will to slow and steady to avoid colliding with Long Range Toddy. It does not show any effect on Country House, then on the far outside.
“It’s not the way I would like to win but, if this was a maiden claimer on a weekday, he’d come down, Kentucky Derby or whatever,” said trainer Bill Mott as he awaited the stewards eventual decision to award his horse the win, only his charge’s second in six starts. There are three stewards who vote by majority decision and stated in a post-race press conference that the decision was unanimous.
Code of Honor was awarded second and Tacitus third. War of Will and Long Range Toddy, the two horses most affected by the incident, finished seventh and 16th respectively.
It was the first Derby win for Mott who would later defend the win even as he expressed disappointment in how it was earned. It would have been the first Derby win for Maximum Security trainer Jason Servis.
Country House becomes the longest shot since Mine That Bird in 2009, the 50-1 longshot, and the second ever by the disqualification of the apparent winner. The 1968 winner, Dancer’s Image, was later controversially disqualified when traces of then-banned phenylbutazone or “bute,” commonly used to relieve joint inflammation, were found in a post-race drug test. Forward Pass was awarded the victory.
The longest shot winner in Derby history was Donerail, a 91-1 winner in 1913. Gate Dancer finished fourth in 1984 and was disqualified to fifth, the last disqualification in the Kentucky Derby.