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Before we begin discussing the disqualification of Maximum Security and the promotion of Country House to 1st place in the Kentucky Derby, some full disclosure for proper context is in order.
I was wrong about several key horses in the race. I didn’t respect Maximum Security, and even though the analysis I posted on this blog pointed out that a lot of people I respected liked Code of Honor, I didn’t like him for my main tickets. My top pick, Spinoff, through in a total dud of a performance. By just about every appropriate measure of race handicapping, I was wrong. By just about every appropriate measure, I missed. Just about.
I say “just about” because my top longshot was Country House. And at odds of 65-1, history will show him as the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby. So no matter what you want to say about my overall analysis, I directed a number of people in the direction of some big money. One friend of mine bet $100 to win on Country House. Another friend had the exacta and the trifecta. Both of them credited their scores to my analysis.
The disqualification of Maximum Security resulted in an $11,475 score for me, as I had the trifecta for $1. Even though I openly disliked the chances of Maximum Security and Code of Honor, I used both of them, along with every other horse I felt had a reasonable chance to hit the board, underneath Game Winner, Tacitus, and my two longshots Spinoff and Country House, in the trifecta.
So I was, for the most part, wrong about the race. And I won over $11,000. Is this a great game or what?
Now, for some further disclosure before we get into the DQ. I am not among the biggest bettors in America. Not even close. However, I bet far more money than the average bettor. Anyone who saw me on TV at the end of the Hawthorne Invitational last month knows that I lost over $5,000 on one bet in an attempt to win the contest that I was leading going into the last race. So for those of you who would suggest that my opinion on the DQ of Maximum Security is tainted by my financial stake in the result, let me kindly suggest that you are mistaken. Call me whatever word you want, but an $11,000 score isn’t going to influence my opinion. Case in point, last September at Kentucky Downs, I played a 1x1x2 Pick 3 for $50. I hit the first two legs. One of my two horses won Leg 3. I stood to collect $6,600, but my winner was DQ’d fairly an appropriately. So just keep all of this in proper context as you read the rest of this post.
Ok. Here we go.
The disqualification of Maximum Security was the biggest no-brainer in the history of horse racing. Had the exact scenario occurred in the 4th race at Charles Town on a Saturday night, it would have taken less than two minutes to make the change. But because this was the sport’s biggest stage, the stewards had to take their time and make sure they looked at every step from every angle.
Maximum Security blatantly impeded the progress of multiple horses, one of whom, War of Will, may have won the race. I honestly can’t see how any objective human with two working eyes can argue with me here. I CAN see how someone with money on Maximum Security would argue with me. Money changes things. That’s why I explained my financial stake in the interest of transparency.
What has surprised me about all of this are the reactions of true racing fans. I am going to outline some of the more common responses I’ve read on social media, and my response to each of them.
“Luis Saez didn’t intend to interfere with the other horses.”- So what? Is that supposed to become the new standard for a disqualification? Jockey intent? Think about that for a minute. Think about whether or not you think it’s a good idea to require stewards to determine that a jockey intended to foul another horse in order to make a disqualification.
“Maximum Security was going to win anyway.”- Really. Did you see the way War of Will was moving? Watch the replay again and get back to me.
“We should change the rules and do it the way they do it in Europe. No horse can be moved up via a DQ unless that horse was fouled, thereby preventing an undeserving horse from being declared the winner”. – OK, please think about that. As one of my old Criminal Law professors would say, “Look what that would do.” What would stop a jockey, while leading the race in the late stages aboard a mount that is clearly struggling to make it to the wire, from deliberately impeding the progress of a rival in the hopes that yet another rival might pass the first rival and finish 2nd, thereby making a DQ impossible because it would move up an “undeserving winner”? In other words, an unscrupulous jockey might take his chances if he knows he can be a little rough and possibly get away with it. Are you going to tell me some jockeys would not try this on occasion? Do you want to bet on a sport like that?
“This is a bad look for horse racing. People who don’t follow the sport, including members of the media, are going to say the sport is broken and that the DQ was wrong. Just look at what President Trump just tweeted!!!”- I don’t care. Were the stewards really supposed to consider the opinions of people who only care about horse racing for two minutes a year? You can’t be serious.
“The owners of Maximum Security are considering taking their case to Federal Court.”- I hope for their sake that this doesn’t actually happen. It would be the ultimate sore loser act.
I had one friend text me and suggest that the race should be re-run. Another friend felt that the horse in the lead should be able to go wherever it wants. Neither of these people, as you may have guessed, is a horse racing fan. Regardless, people are not viewing this situation with clear eyes. Maximum Security had to be taken down. The fact that this was the Kentucky Derby is 100% irrelevant. The fact that the world was watching is irrelevant. The fact that Country House was 65-1 is irrelevant. What is also irrelevant is the fact that Country House ran 51 feet farther than Maximum Security, and therefore completed the 1 ¼ mile distance faster than Maximum Security. So I won’t even make the case that Country House was actually the best horse. Though it should be noted that Game Winner ran farther than all of the top finishers. Just file that away. Because it, too, is irrelevant. At least in terms of the Kentucky Derby. On to Baltimore. And boy does it feel good to win $11,000 that I didn’t deserve. Maybe all of this DOES even out.