Usually we associate replay review with football, basketball and, more recently, hockey and baseball, but this past Saturday presented a first in a major horse racing event. For those familiar with prime American sporting events, you know what I’m referring to. In what is commonly referred to as the fastest two minutes in sports, Saturday’s rendition of the 145th Kentucky Derby suddenly became a 24-minute affair. The race itself lasted just over two minutes as expected, but it’s what happened afterward that I’ve got some beef with.
Maximum Security, at 9-2 odds, appeared to have claimed the roses. The thoroughbred crossed the finish line in first place by a length and a half, but shortly thereafter, an objection was filed with the stewards upstairs. From there, the group proceeded to pour over clip after clip of the issue in question. If you didn’t watch the Derby, I’d highly recommend taking a look at some of the replay clips available online to see the full context.
In a nutshell, on the final turn in the home stretch, Maximum Security appeared to have shifted out of his lane and made contact with War of Will. This slight movement and contact was deemed to have disrupted the lead group and ultimately got Maximum Security disqualified. First place was awarded to Country House, at 65-1 odds. Never before had an on-track disqualification occurred in the 145 years of the Derby.
Here are a few small things I have issue with. First, Maximum Security’s lane shift did not seem to effect Country House, since Country House was positioned on the outside before and after contact occurred. If anything, War of Will was most impacted. Second, even after the contact was made, Country House and Maximum Security were still jostling for first. Third, the race itself was not decided by a photo finish. Maximum Security pulled away from Country House well after any contact was made.
Look, don’t get me wrong, I love sporting events with unexpected endings. I also like underdogs. And I understand a winner has to be declared. The stewards had a tremendous decision to make. Not only would it directly affect all those who had placed wagers on Maximum Security and Country House, but it would completely change the results of the biggest horse racing event of the year. Perhaps what I have the most beef with came hours after the decision was made, when the stewards made a brief statement to the press, then took no questions afterward. This, in my view, further adds to the controversy. Answering questions from the press would have provided more context to the unfolding situation and shown transparency in the decision-making process.
Regardless of where you stand on the matter, whether you believe a foul did occur and Maximum Security was rightly stripped of the Derby win in favor of Country House or whether you contend Maximum Security was wrongly disqualified from the event, one thing is certain. This debate is not going away anytime soon.