Kentucky Derby Fiasco: First Place Winner Disqualified

  • Maximum Security crosses Kentucky Derby finish line first only to be disqualified
  • Country House, the long-shot, earned the first place win
  • Bettors who wagered on Maximum Security to win the race, place or show lost $9m total
Kentucky Derby
Maximum Security, the Kentucky Derby first-place finisher this year, was disqualified for alleged race interference.

For the first time in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby, the horse that crossed the finish line in first place was disqualified as the winner. The most prestigious race in the United States was hit with a major fiasco as the winning horse was later determined to have violated the rules during the event.

Front-runner Maximum Security finished the race 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Country House, only to lose the win based on accusations of interfering with other horses.

Bettors Lose $9m

Maximum Security was the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby and, after it crossed the finish line, bettors were happy with the outcome. However, two jockeys filed an objection against the winner, stating that Maximum Security had interfered with other horses in the race. Officials ended up reversing the decision and naming second-place finisher Country House the winner.

The review of the decision took 22 minutes to complete. Kentucky Horse Racing Commission chief steward Barbara Borden issued a statement on the decision over the weekend. According to the review, the riders of Long Range Toddy and Country House had raised objections against Maximum Security.

The interference allegedly took place when turning for home leaving the quarter pole. Officials reviewed the race and interviewed the riders of Country House and Long Range Toddy. It was determined that Maximum Security had drifted out and impacted the progress of number 1 in the race, which interfered with Long Range Toddy and Country House.

The rules state that if a leading horse or any other horse in a race swerves or is ridden to either side as to interfere or intimidate, or impede any other jockey or horse, or cause the same result, the action is deemed foul.

If the opinion of the stewards is that a foul altered the outcome of a race, the offending horse can be disqualified.

Country House sat at odds of 65-1, having the second-longest odds of any winner during the Kentucky Derby. Maximum Security had odds of 9-2 to win. The change cost bettors $9m (€8m), as tons of wagers had been placed on Maximum Security to win, place or show during the event.

Owner Unhappy

The owner of Maximum Security, Gary West, was not happy with the decision by the Commission. He felt that the decision was questionable, saying:

“I think the fact that the head steward would not take any questions shows complete lack of transparency and optically appears they know they made a bad decision and needed some time to put the best possible spin on their extremely questionable decision.”

Another problem with the disqualification was the time in which it was made. The inquiry sign that is available to use at the race was not posted at the time of the incident.

Initially, it was only Country House that had a problem with Maximum Security. But Long Range Toddy came in on the accusation soon after. The inquiry sign is used to indicate to the crowd there is an issue as well as the television viewing audience.

The incident marked the very first time a winner has been disqualified in the history of the Kentucky Derby for an on-track issue. In 1968, competitor Dancer’s Image lost the win after failing a drug test post-race.