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Appeal of Maximum Security's disqualification in Kentucky Derby is denied

Luis Saez rides Maximum Security, right, across the

Luis Saez rides Maximum Security, right, across the finish line first against Flavien Prat on Country House during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Saturday in Louisville, Ky. Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An appeal  by Gary West, co-owner of disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security, to overturn Saturday's ruling by Churchill Downs' stewards was denied Monday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The appeal, which was filed Monday, never had a chance.The  commission’s rulebook spells it out clearly: “Findings of fact and determination shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal.”

“Based on everything that has happened so far, I’m not surprised,” West told The Associated Press in a phone interview after the appeal was denied. “We’ll file suit in whatever the appropriate court is. I don’t know the answer to that, but the lawyers that I have retained will know what the appropriate venue is.”

West also said Maximum Security will not run May 18 in the Preakness “because there’s no Triple Crown on the line for us, and no reason to run a horse back in two weeks if you don’t have to.”

Twenty-two minutes after Maximum Security crossed the finish line Saturday, he was dropped to 17th for interference in the first on-track DQ of a winner in the Derby’s 145-year history. There were screams of outrage from the crowd of 150,729, many of whom bet on him.

About 90 minutes later came a tweet from Twinspires.com, Churchill Downs’ Internet betting site, saying it would refund win bets of up to $10 on Maximum Security. According to the track, all-sources win action on him was $6,212,046, with only a tiny percentage from small bets on Twinspires.com.

Dan in Kentucky tweeted this response: “If you’re refunding people money based on your call, then that shows you’re second-guessing your call in the first place.”

West was shaken but philosophical after leaving the winner’s circle without the trophy. “That’s horse racing,” he said. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you win and you lose all in the same race.”

A few hours later, in a phone interview with The Associated Press, West said: “I think this is the most egregious disqualification in the history of horse racing, and not just because it’s our horse.”

Video shows front-running Maximum Security veered out two or three paths leaving the far turn. He impeded War of Will and Long Range Toddy and also bothered Bodexpress and to a lesser extent Country House, the 65-1 shot who ran second and was awarded the win. 

Tyler Gaffalione and War of Will were fortunate they didn’t go down, which might have wiped out seven or eight horses. Trainer Mark Casse marveled that War of Will stayed upright and wasn’t hurt.

“The horse racing world should be happy that War of Will is such an athlete,” Casse said, “because not every horse doesn’t go down there. Should [Maximum Security] have come down? Absolutely. He put people’s lives in danger. He put horses’ lives in danger.”

Flavien Prat (on Country House) and Jon Court (Long Range Toddy) claimed foul. Casse said he told Gaffalione not to “because we were eighth. If we had finished fourth or third or second, we’d have been claiming foul in an instant.”

On Saturday night, stewards Barbara Borden, Butch Becraft and Tyler Picklesimer released a statement that Borden read in the press room. But by refusing to answer questions — there would have been dozens — they fueled the controversy and enraged West.

“I was a bit shocked that the stewards ... refused to take a single question from the media,” West told NBC. “So they’ve been about as nontransparent about this whole thing as anything I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

Notes & quotes: Trainer Bill Mott said he is “leaning toward” running Country House in the Preakness despite concerns about the two-week turnaround. It would be his sixth race of the year and third in eight weeks. If Country House hadn’t been awarded the Derby win, Mott said he and stablemate Tacitus, placed third in the Derby, would not have returned until the Belmont Stakes on June 8 ... War of Will and new shooter Bourbon War are expected to run at Pimlico.

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