The Kentucky Derby was stricken with historic controversy as race stewards spent nearly 30 minutes reviewing video of apparent winner Maximum Security, who led wire-to-wire Saturday at Churchill Downs, for a foul near the end of the 1 1/4-mile race.
Only six times prior in the 145-year history of horse racing's premier event has a foul claim been filed by a jockey and never had the claim resulted in a horse being taken down from his result. Maximum Security finished two lengths ahead of Country House, but Country House ended up with the garland of roses.
Jockey Flavien Pratt, aboard Country House, and Jon Court, veteran jockey of Long Range Toddy, claimed foul over Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez.
The interaction occurred near the quarter pole, with a quarter-mile to go, as the lead horses reach the front straightaway. War of Will jockey Tyler Gaffalione and Maximum Security appeared to make the most contact coming out of the third turn.
Chief race steward Barbara Borden made a statement afterward, but was not made available for questions from the media.
"The riders of the 18 [Long Range Toddy] and 20 [Country House] horses in the Kentucky Derby lodged objections against the 7 [Maximum Security] horse, the winner, due to interference turning for home, leaving the 1/4 pole," Borden said. "We had a lengthy review of the race. We interviewed affected riders. We determined that the 7 horse drifted out and impacted the progress of No. 1 [War of Will], in turn, interfering with the 18 and 21 [Bodeexpress]. Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference. Therefore, we unanimously determined to disqualify No. 7 and place him behind the 18, the 18 being the lowest-placed horse that he bothered, which is our typical procedure."
A foul, according to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, is “any action by any jockey or driver that tends to hinder another jockey or any horse in the proper running of the race.”
“A leading horse when clear is entitled to any part of the track,” the rule states. “Except in a straight-away racing, every horse must maintain position as nearly as possible in the lane in which it starts. If a leading horse, or any other horse in a race, swerves or is ridden to either side so as to interfere with or intimidate or impede any other horse or jockey, or to cause same, it is a foul; if a jockey strikes another horse or jockey, it is a foul. If in the opinion of the stewards, a foul alters the finish of a race, any offending horses may be disqualified by the stewards.”
Court confirmed via text message that Long Range Toddy was bothered by the action of Maximum Security.
"We were in perfect position early on and comfortable most of the race," Court said. "At the quarter pole inside, [Maximum Security] came abruptly out turning my horse sideways and eliminated my momentum and costing me any valuable opportunity to finish at best.”
“I am saddened for the connections by the outcome of the decision yet congratulate those celebrating their victory,” added the 58-year-old Court, who became the oldest jockey in Kentucky Derby history.
One of the race's youngest jockeys, Gaffalione was riding War of Will as the horse was making a move outside of Maximum Security.
“I really thought I was going to win the Derby. I checked pretty hard when the seven [Maximum Security] came out as far as he did," Gaffalione said.
Maximum Security, an undefeated horse who had thrived in sloppy conditions, went off at 4-1 odds. His trainer was disappointed and felt for the owners, Gary and Mary West.
"I don't think it changed the outcome of the race," Maximum security trainer Jason Servis said. "It looks like something scared him in the infield, but I haven't been able to watch it that close. I feel bad for the Wests. It looked like he ducked out a little bit. It's [the disqualification] is tough. It hasn't sunk in yet, but it will."
Country House trainer Bill Mott — and Pratt — conceded the affect the foul had on them was not significant, but Mott, after reviewing the film, agreed with the steward's ruling that the other horses were affected.
"It may have affected it slightly, but I'm going to say it affected two other horses dramatically," Mott said. "If what happened to us, was the only thing they were looking at, I don't think you would have seen a disqualification. They lost all chance and those two horses lost their opportunity to win, or place, in the Kentucky Derby."
Inquiries of foul claims in Kentucky Derby history
2001 – Jockey’s Claim of Foul John Velazquez, who rode runner-up Invisible Ink, lodged a claim of foul against the 4 ¾-length winner Monarchos, ridden by Jorge Chavez, for alleged interference at the quarter pole. The objection was not sustained by the stewards.
1984 – Steward’s Inquiry & Jockey Claim of Foul The second disqualification in Kentucky Derby history took place in 1984 when fourth-place finisher Gate Dancer, ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, was disqualified by the stewards for interference in the stretch with Fali Time, ridden by Sandy Hawley. Gate Dancer was placed fifth behind Fali Time, who was promoted to fourth.
1968 – Disqualification of Dancer’s Image In the 1968 Kentucky Derby, Dancer’s Image finished first and was followed by Forward Pass, Francie’s Hat, T.V. Commercial and Kentucky Sherry. However, due to the discovery of prohibited medication (phenylbutazone – a non-steroidal antiinflammatory medication commonly used to relieve inflammation of the joints which was legal at many racetracks in the U.S. but not at Churchill Downs) in mandatory post-race urinalysis of Peter Fuller’s homebred Dancer’s Image, the Kentucky State Racing Commission ordered redistribution of the purse with first-place money to Forward Pass, second-place money to Francie’s Hat, and third-place money to T.V. Commercial.
1959 – Jockey’s Claim of Foul Bill Bolland, who rode runner-up Sword Dancer, lodged a claim of foul against nose winner Tomy Lee-GB, ridden by Bill Shoemaker, for alleged bumping through the stretch. The stewards judged Sword Dancer to be the aggressor and the objection was not sustained.
1933 – Jockey’s Claim of Foul In the notorious “Fighting Finish” Derby, the maiden Brokers Tip, ridden by Don Meade, came up the rail and defeated Head Play by a nose. Herb Fisher, the jockey of the runner-up, lodged a claim of foul against the winner, but it was dismissed after the stewards conferred briefly. Unquestionably, there was some fierce raceriding down the stretch. The recap of the race in Daily Racing Form on May 8, 1933 wrote: “While the rough tactics of both Meade and Fisher somewhat marred the breathtaking finish, probably the most thrilling in all the history of the race, which was established in 1875, their eagerness to win rather than to deliberately foul or impede their rival induced the mild breach of the rules. … From [the eighth pole] to the end the two leaders and riders put on as furious and rough a stretch duel as the race has known.”
1880 – Jockey’s Claim of Foul Jimmy Lakeland, the rider of runner-up Kimball, lodged a claim of foul against the onelength winner Fonso. The objection was not sustained.
— Source: Kentucky Derby Media Guide