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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, May 6, 2019 at 5:10 PM


To Those Who Say The Maximum Security DQ Was Correct – You Are RIGHT!
To Those Who Say The Maximum Security DQ Was Incorrect – You Are RIGHT!

Jim Hurley
Monday, May 6

Both opposing positions are correct. How about that for taking a stand?

As you read my tongue wagging below, let me state for the record that regardless of the outcome, I had already discarded my losing Derby tickets. I had no, as they say, dog in the fight. Little could be done to salvage my Kentucky Derby wagering venture.

First let me state that there are two things which stood out during the interminable wait for the stewards to make their decision.

One – As the decision making period went on and on (22 minutes) whether there was or was not a disqualification, since it took three people that long to make up their minds, they had to be at best uncertain.

Of course, if they were even somewhat uncertain, regardless of my opinion or that of any other pro or con editorialist, the argument can be made, as it is in every other sport (with their rules) that the original result stands. And remember, in other sports, when a challenge is made (in this case, the objection by Flavian Prat aboard Country House) the need for a decision was thrown to the stewards, who HAD NOT (based on any evidence anyone can gather) put up the INQUIRY SIGN…only the jockey objection put this all in play.

Two – With all due respect to Bill Mott, sure rules are rules. And yes, as other pundits have chimed in, if a basketball foul happens with 30 seconds left in a Final Four tied game it is the same as a foul 30 seconds into a November, non-conference game, my only response is…blah, blah, blah.

Of course, the Mott comment was in the heat of the moment, while the decision was still in the hands of the stewards, and the reporters would not take the microphone out of his face, would not leave him alone. Nonetheless, let me quote Bill Mott and respond.

“If it was a maiden claimer on a weekday, the winner would come down. And it’s not supposed to matter — Kentucky Derby or whatever it is. There’s a couple of riders that nearly clipped heels and went down in there.”

In theory, yes. But anyone who has bet hard earned money and been on either side of a questionable DQ or NO DQ call knows: there is no such thing as “rules are rules, nothing else is supposed to matter.”

For just as there are officials on the court or field or diamond of any other sport, the rules are there and the enforcement is at best subjective. Again, I am not taking a position as to the DQ of Maximum Security being correct or incorrect based on the evidence as it has been applied and the decision that was made. The decision was made…little I say changes it.

However, let me backtrack to one point about Bill Mott’s quote.

And in this case I definitely will take a stand. NO, Mr. Mott, rules might be rules (in a perfectly abstract world) but there is absolutely no equation between a maiden race, say at Belmont, where 8 horses might be running one turn over a fast track and 19 horses (not a one of which has ever been 10 furlongs) running over a sloppy oval, having already on a number of occasions bumped and repositioned themselves in front of 150,000 screaming people. No equivalency whatsoever.

Given that, I can only apply my own experience based on decades of racing involvement. And that experience tells me that stewards make decisions with (perhaps) their “rules paradigm” in place but make those decisions subjectively. How can they not?   

Yet as the consensus seems to be in the case of this disqualification, rules are rules and the stewards had no choice.

So, if rules are rules, there is no room for subjectivity. There is no rooms for what my own subjectivity tells me about the judgment passed following the objection claimed by jockey Flavian Prat aboard Country House.

And if there is no room for subjectivity (talk about taking an easy way out) then I propose the following. All racing officials need to do is use current technology to map lanes and individual 8 to 10 foot boxes within those lanes underneath the surface of every race track and turf course in the country and use signals from within cordoned off parameters to decide if indeed one horse ventured out of their allotted space and impeded another. No need for stewards.

O.K., that might seem a bit farfetched, but it is sort of what the reasoning for the consensus that it was the right call is leading to.

Now, a few more quick observations and then I will leave it alone.

As to Bill Mott saying that “I feel terrible that I have to apologize for winning.” I get it that he is in an untenable position. But in this case, Country House did not win the Kentucky Derby. He legitimately finished second and was placed first. Nothing that happened to Country House prevented him from finishing first regardless of what happened inside of him.

By now it is clearly established that we know the best Country House would have done was finish second. He was closer to Maximum Security “right after” all the bumping to his inside, which affected him inconsequentially compared to the others that Maximum Security was eventually placed behind. Yet as they ran the final 3/16ths of a mile, Country House hung and lost ground to Maximum Security. He was never going to win the race. And in fact, though we will never know, had War of Will not taken the worst of it, he might have engaged Maximum Security and won the race. Again we don’t know if he would or would not have. We do know that Country House would not have.

More importantly, the biggest question the stewards should be “forced” to answer is the following: if as they and others have repeated over and over, that the decision was made because a catastrophe could have happened, which we are all thankful did not, and the safety of the horses and riders is paramount, why did they not immediately put up the inquiry sign?

This is not a “gotcha” question on my part. I think it is at the heart of the matter. Because in my opinion, this was another of many roughly run Kentucky Derby races. As mentioned above, it is the product of the number of horses, the track conditions, the distance, the crowds, etc. So maybe, in the minds of the stewards, and of course I can only inconclusively speculate, they just saw “more of the same” as has been seen year in and year out and were going to let it go at that until Prat made his objection.

I am even willing to speculate that jockey Tyler Gaffalione aboard War of Will was of a mind to let it pass because, that’s the Derby, and his trainer Mark Casse, who even admitted that after the race his only thought was that his horse returned sound. Might that not be a capitulation to the long held overview that it’s a rough race because of its unique circumstances and so be it?

When all this calms down, and it will be a while before it does, the after-story will focus once again on a conversation that has been swirling for years. Shouldn’t the Kentucky Derby be restricted to 14 runners instead of 20?

I’ll let that continue to stew. As to my opinion, I can unequivocally say that should they reduce the field to 14 runners, which based on Saturday’s justification for the DQ (safety of the horses and riders) leans towards, you no longer have the circumstances which make the Kentucky Derby the singular challenging race that it is.

Now…I know I said I would let it go, and I am wrapping up. But just one more quick observation.

Along the lines of safety for the Derby horses and riders, the gap between the two starting gates continues to produce early crowding and bumping. If Churchill Downs is going to remain with a 20 horse field capacity, they must build a one piece continuous gate.





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