Kentucky Derby Drama Continues As Maximum Security’s Owner Threatens Legal Action After Disqualification

Maximum Security is walked to the track at the Kentucky Derby.
Michael Reaves / Getty Images

The winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby may take even longer to determine as the owner of Maximum Security indicated he may be taking legal action after the history-making disqualification in Saturday’s race.

As the New York Post reported, co-owner Gary West was critical of the decision by Kentucky Derby stewards to disqualify Maximum Security for committing an infraction during the race, deciding that he left his lane and impeded second-finishing Country House as well as other horses.

Within hours of the race ending, West made it known that he strongly agreed with the decision.

“I think this is the most egregious disqualification in the history of horse racing, and not just because it’s our horse,” West said on Saturday evening.

It took a full 22 minutes between the completion of the race and the decision to disqualify Maximum Security, the first time that a winning horse has been disqualified from the race. Barbara Borden, chief steward of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said that they reviewed objections from the riders of Long Randy Toddy and Country House that Maximum Security had interfered by drifting out of his lane and into their paths.

“We had a lengthy review of the race,” Borden said. “We interviewed affected riders. We determined that [Maximum Security] drifted out and impacted the progress of War of Will, in turn interfering with the 18 and 21. Those horses were all affected by the interference.”

West said that his team would be evaluating their options, including taking legal action. An appeal could drag on the issue for weeks or months.

The disqualification led to a massive shift in the betting world, putting the 65-to-1 odds Country House as the winner. As ESPN reported, more than $6.2 million had been wagered on Maximum Security to win, and there was a $3 million purse at stake as well.

That makes the decision to disqualify Maximum Security that much more unusual, the report noted.

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“There’s a reason the Derby had never had a winner taken down for race riding — the technical name for the foul — in its history. The stakes are just too high. The only other disqualification in the race’s history occurred after the fact, when Dancer’s Image was disqualified for failing a drug test in 1968,” the report noted.

It was not yet clear if the owners of Maximum Security will pursue legal action, or just how long it could take the litigate the ending of the Kentucky Derby.