“I tried to handle this in a nice, quiet way, and I didn’t think there was enough said about the trip our horse had. Now, given some of the recent comments, I’m pissed off.”
That’s War of Will trainer Mark Casse in an interview with The Louisville Courier Journal (May 8), in response to Gary West, owner of Maximum Security, who told Martha McCallum of Fox News that he blamed War of Will’s jockey Tyler Gaffalione for contact with his horse leading to the first disqualification in the 145-year history of The Kentucky Derby, the first leg in horse racing’s triple crown.
“I think when it’s all said and done,” West said, “and all the evidence is put on display, frame by frame in slow motion, you will find that the 1 horse (War of Will) actually caused the infraction, not our horse. And … I believe it will eventually show that if the 1 horse would have finished ahead of our horse, we would have had every right in the world to claim an objection against the 1 horse.”
While favorite Maximum Security crossed the finish line first, the horse was later disqualified by chief steward Barbara Borden, who, after a 21-minute examination of the race from multiple camera angles with two other stewards, had concluded that the horse drifted out of its path “impacting the progress” of War of Will, who in turn, interfered with two other horses.
Second-place finisher, Country House, was declared the winner.
Hours after the decision, West filed an appeal with state regulators.
“The appeal,” The New York Times reported (May 6), “…requested that all Derby purse money be placed in escrow ‘pending final determination.’ It also requested access to video replays; notes from the stewards who ruled that Maximum Security had interfered with another horse; and the statements from trainers and jockeys that stewards used in their decision-making process.”
However, “The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, in a letter from its general counsel, John L. Forgy, said the disqualification was not subject to appeal.”
While West appeared polite before the NBC cameras as the race was under review, his attitude decidedly changed.
“ Churchill Downs, because they’re a greedy organization,” West said in an interview on NBC’s The Today Show, “rather than 14 [horses] like you have in the Kentucky Oaks and the Breeder’s Cup and every other race in America, just because they can make more money [by running a field of 20], they’re willing to risk horses’ lives and people’s lives to do that.”
“ ‘We understand that the Wests are disappointed that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards disqualified Maximum Security,’ said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs.
“ ‘However, the stewards are responsible for regulating and enforcing the rules of racing in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and we respect and support their decision. The infraction committed by Maximum Security has nothing to do with the number of horses in the race, which has been a consistent number for many years, and there is no evidence to the contrary.’ ” The Times added.
The Courier Journal website offers a frame-by-frame description of the final moments of the race which appears to support the unanimous decision by the stewards.
Five-time derby winner, trainer Bob Baffert, who had three horses in the race – Game Winner, Improbable and Roadster – said, “No one ever calls an objection in the Derby,” Baffert said by text. as reported by The Paulick Report “It’s always a roughly run race. Twenty-horse field. I have been wiped out numerous times, but that is the Derby. I can see by the book why they did it. But sometimes you’ve got to take your ass-kickings with dignity.”
But of course, the most significant opinion came in a tweet by President Trump, who said, “The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby – not even close!”
That’s because it was a race that relied on rules on which the Derby stewards based their decision. Sadly, in the era of Trump everything is challenged, especially the rules.
By the way, the first place winner, Country House paid 65-1.
Coming Monday: They Knew!