The owners of Maximum Security are suing in federal court to restore their horse’s win in the controversial 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, saying the process that disqualified him is “unconstitutional.”
They also want purse money to be redistributed in accordance with the original order of finish; the winner’s share for the race was $1.86 million, while the jockey and trainer were denied $186,000 each.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Frankfort Tuesday on behalf of Gary and Mary West, who have disputed Kentucky stewards’ finding that Maximum Security interfered with other horses.
Sixty-five-to-1 longshot Country House, the second-place finisher, was declared the winner and received the winning purse.
The Wests appealed to the Kentucky Horse Race Commission last week, but it was swiftly denied, with the organization stating that its stewards’ findings on in-race matters “shall be final and not subject to appeal.”
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The Wests said that lack of an appeals process violated their due-process rights, and was the subject for the lawsuit.
The Wests have asked to have the stewards’ decision reversed to “the original order of finish confirming that Maximum Security is the official winner of the Derby who remains undefeated.”
Listed among the defendants are the three stewards, including chief steward Barbara Borden, who announced the decision; and every member of the Horse Race Commission, including executive director Marc Guilfoi and retired jockey Pat Day.
Susan West, a spokeswoman for the Horse Racing Commission, declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing the organization’s policy to not comment on pending litigation.
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Maximum Security crossed the finish line first in the 145th Kentucky Derby but was eventually disqualified and dropped to 17th when stewards ruled he drifted out of his running lane and impeded the progress of other horses in the race.
After the race, Borden said Maximum Security was disqualified in a unanimous decision for interfering with the progress of War of Will, who in turn interfered with Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress.
The Wests’ claimed the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” in their denied appeal.
“The stewards unanimously disqualified Maximum Security following two objections lodged immediately after the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby and after a thorough review of the race replay. That determination is not subject to an appeal,” read the denial, which was signed by Guilfoil.
In Tuesday’s lawsuit, the Wests called the lack of appeals process, as well as the disqualification process, “bizarre.”
The plaintiffs point to a state law that says a court may review a state agency’s final orders and may reverse it if is “without support of substantial evidence” or is “arbitrary, capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion.”
The Wests say that “throughout the bumping and striking incidents, all of which occurred behind him,” Maximum Security was “entitled as the leading horse to a path on the track of his choosing,” according to the suit.
The Wests note that the stewards never posted an inquiry, “having not observed any foul or interference.” The stewards also disallowed an objection from Country House jockey Flavien Prat, who claimed interference, calling it “meritless,” according to the suit.
An objection from Long Range Toddy jockey Jon Court was sustained, the suit notes. But while stewards claimed they “interviewed affected riders,” neither War of Will jockey Tyler Gaffalione nor Bodexpress jockey Chris Landeros were interviewed, the suit states.
The Wests also claimed that “it has been acknowledged by virtually everyone that Maximum Security’s determined run in the remaining 20% of the race, after having his hindquarters nearly taken out from under him by War of Will, proved Maximum Security to be the best horse and the deserving winning of the Kentucky Derby.”
As a result of the disqualification, the Wests were denied “professional accomplishment that any horsemen would cherish for life,” plus the “very substantial value at a Kentucky Derby winner has as a stallion,” in addition to the purse money.
Country House’s “connections” received about $1.26 million more for being elevated to first, the suit states. Betters on Maximum Security, including those who bet it to win, place or show or to win exotic wagers, lost more than $100 million.
The $1.86 million owed to Country House was scheduled to be paid Friday, Darren Rogers, a spokesman for Churchill Downs, said last week. Regulations stipulate that the purse, $3 million for this year’s Derby, is paid out within 48 hours of the next race day, which was last Thursday.
He did not immediately confirm Wednesday whether that amount was paid.
Meanwhile, Maximum Security’s jockey, Luis Saez, was suspended for 15 racing days after the Horse Racing Commission determined he interfered with other riders during the race.
The commission cited Saez’s “failure to controI his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course, thereby causing interference with several rivals that resulted in the disqualification of his mount.”
His lawyer, Ann Oldfather, said he will appeal and expects to overturn “this unsupported and unsupportable suspension.”
She said she also will ask that the suspension, which could potentially keep him out of the Belmont Stakes, be stayed pending the appeal.
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Justin Sayers: 502-582-4252; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_JustinSayers. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/justins.