Kentucky Derby

Maximum Security’s owner isn’t giving up fight to get back Kentucky Derby win

See the moment Maximum Security drifted into path of other horses in Kentucky Derby

See a playback of when Maximum Security drifted into the path of other horses on Churchill Downs' track during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4, 2019.
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See a playback of when Maximum Security drifted into the path of other horses on Churchill Downs' track during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4, 2019.

Maximum Security owner Gary West said he will sue the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which on Monday denied an appeal of the disqualification of his horse in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

According to Fox News, West on Monday evening after the denial told “The Story with Martha MacCallum” that he would “file a lawsuit in the appropriate jurisdiction.” The racing commission late Monday denied a chance to appeal the disqualification, which moved Maximum Security from first place to 18th.

In a letter, racing commission attorney John Forgy said that state regulations spell out that stewards’ rulings are final, with no appeal allowed, and that Gary and Mary West agreed to abide by these regulations when they applied for owners’ licenses.

The stewards ruled that jockey Luis Saez and Maximum Security interfered with other horses in the race when they drifted out into the path of other runners.

Kentucky chief steward Barbara Borden describes how her and other stewards came to the conclusion of disqualifying Maximum Security from the win at the 145th Kentucky Derby.

Legal actions against the racing commission must be filed in Franklin Circuit Court, according to the state regulations that govern racing.

Barry Stilz, the Lexington attorney who filed the appeal with the racing commission on Monday, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether or not a lawsuit was pending.

Meanwhile, Maximum Security arrived at his home barn in Monmouth Park Racetrack in New Jersey early Tuesday.

The horse is skipping the Preakness, the second jewel in racing’s Triple Crown; Country House, who was elevated from second place to winner after the disqualification, also will not compete in the Preakness on May 18 at Pimlico in Baltimore, trainer Bill Mott told the Daily Racing Form on Tuesday.

West on Monday morning said that he blamed a crowded 19-horse field for bumping at the far turn but in the interview on Fox Monday evening he argued that the cause was War of Will.

“I think when it’s all said and done and all the evidence is put on display, frame by frame in slow motion, you will find that the 1 horse [War of Will] actually caused the infraction, not our horse,” he said. “And ... I believe it will eventually show that if the 1 horse would have finished ahead of our horse, we would have had every right in the world to claim an objection against the 1 horse.”

War of Will’s trainer, Mark Casse, on Tuesday denied that his horse was responsible for the problem.

“Mr. West is ... distraught and I understand that. But in no way did War of Will have anything to do with the actions of Maximum Security,” Casse said. “I reviewed the run of the race, to see if Mr. West’s accusations had any merit and I reviewed it numerous times …. And in fact, after closer review, I have decided that not only did Maximum Security bother us in the big ‘event,’ he herded everybody going into the half-mile pole and caused interference there as well.”

Churchill Downs late Monday released video that shows a head-on view of the Kentucky Derby. At about the 1:30 mark, War of Will can be seen moving to the outside of Maximum Security as they come to the final turn. Then Maximum Security veers sharply off the rail into the path of War of Will and Long Range Toddy.

Replay of the Kentucky Derby 2019, cut from the point of the infraction, which later led to the disqualification of Maximum Security, to the finish of the race. Provided by Churchill Downs.

It is unclear whether West’s potential lawsuit has a chance. Lexington attorney Tom Miller, who represented former chief steward John Veach in his case against the racing commission, said Tuesday that “it will be a very difficult case in which to prevail.”

The lawsuit, which could be filed either in Franklin Circuit Court or in federal court, he said, likely will argue that the Wests “were given no due process because the board has said they have no right to appeal,” Miller said. “They’ll ask a judge to reverse the decision because the action of the stewards was ‘arbitrary or capricious.’”

Andre Regard, another Lexington attorney who specializes in equine law, said the decisions of the stewards are final and generally not subject to appeal.

“The courts are very hesitant to get involved in the outcome of sporting events and playing the role of umpire,” Regard said.