Racing for a Win in the Courtroom

They’re not horsing around

In the aftermath of perhaps one of the largest upsets in horse racing history, the owners of the would-be triumphant horse, Maximum Security, filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Frankfort, KY.  Those who did not tune into the 145th Kentucky Derby on May 4 missed a historically controversial event.  Maximum Security allegedly interfered with other horses during part of the race, and as a result, two jockeys challenged the victory.  After a prolonged and careful review of the entire race, the three stewards decided that Maximum Security did impede the momentum of other horses.  With Maximum Security’s disqualification, the second place finisher, Country House, was announced as the winner of the Derby.  Although this was a heartbreaking loss for the otherwise undefeated Maximum Security, his owners, Gary and Mary West, are not accepting the defeat without a fight.

According to the lawsuit, filed on May 14, the Wests claim their due-process constitutional rights were violated.  The stewards refused to consider an appeal filed by the owners in the week following the race, stating that their policy is clear in forbidding appeals to a final decision made about the race itself.  The owners are discounting this policy as illegal, and believe the absence of an appeals process violates their rights.  The Wests have listed several individuals in their lawsuit, including all three stewards who unanimously came to the decision and all members of the Horse Race Commission.

The cost of the first ever overturned victory in Kentucky Derby history resulted in a loss of over $100 million for betters who selected Maximum Security as the winner.  In addition, the second-place finisher turned victor, Country House, was paid $1.86 million.  The Wests are seeking a reversal of the decision, as well as the purse of $1.86 million.  The owners challenge the conclusion that their horse drifted out of a straight line, affecting the progress of other horses.  Despite the rainy and muddy conditions on May 4, the only thing the Wests saw was Maximum Security leading a pack of horses that struggled to keep up behind him.