Maximum Security owners file federal suit following Derby disqualification

Maximum Security owners file federal suit following Derby disqualification
Maximum Security was disqualified from Kentucky Derby 145, making Country House the winner. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The owners of Maximum Security, the horse disqualified from Kentucky Derby 145 after crossing the finish line first, have officially filed a federal lawsuit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the Churchill Downs stewards behind the decision.

They’re requesting a reversal of Maximum’s Security’s disqualification and reinstatement of the original order of finish, which would make Maximum Security the official, undefeated winner of the Kentucky Derby.

Owners Gary and Mary West first weighed in on the disqualification last week, citing video evidence as reason why the horse shouldn’t have been disqualified. In that statement, the Wests argued their appeal with KHRC was denied within hours of being submitted. They also said they would evaluate their legal options.

The statement was followed the next day by a meeting between Churchill Downs stewards and attorney Ann Oldfather, representing jockey Luis Saez.

During the meeting, Oldfather presented a seven-minute video to stewards, edited to show Saez and Maximum Security were not to blame for the contact at the top of the stretch that nearly caused a dangerous chain reaction for the 19-horse pack.

The notice of legal action released Wednesday details the moments leading up to the disqualification, as relayed by Tom Luicci, Media Liaison for the Wests.

“Either during the running of the Derby or after, the Stewards could have directed that a sign be flashed on the infield board informing the public that an inquiry into the running of the Derby was being conducted by them to determine whether a foul had been committed. Having not observed any foul or interference, there was no inquiry by the Stewards into the running of the Derby,” the notice reads.

Flavien Prat, jockey for Country House, lodged an objection against Maximum Security, which was disallowed by the stewards. Then came an objection from Jon Court, jockey for Long Range Toddy. The stewards sustained this objection and subsequently Maximum Security was disqualified.

“The Stewards said nothing as to whether the alleged foul altered the finish of the Derby or otherwise caused any horse to have been denied a better placement in the order of finish," the statement reads. "Neither the jockey (Tyler Gaffalione), owner, and trainer of War of Will, nor the jockey (Chris Landeros), owner, and trainer of Bodexpress, lodged any objection with the Stewards. Neither Tyler Gaffalione, the rider of the horse the Stewards said was the most “affected” by Maximum Security, nor Chris Landeros, the jockey of Bodexpress, was interviewed by the Stewards. When the Stewards said in their statement that they “interviewed affected riders,” they were not truthful because neither Gaffalione nor Landeros was interviewed by the Stewards.”

Country House crossed the finish line second and was elevated to win the Derby following the disqualification. The notice asserts this decision by the stewards, which took an estimated 20 minutes, negatively affected betters.

“It is estimated that those who had wagered on Maximum Security to either win, place, or show, in exactas, trifectas, superfectas, doubles, pick 3s, pick 4s, pick 5s, or the Super High Five would have, but for the disqualification of Maximum Security, collected winnings estimated to be more than $100 million," it reads.

“In a related matter, it has been reported that a $100 million class action lawsuit is being considered by those who wagered on Maximum Security and were impacted by the lack of transparency and integrity associated with the disqualification process that lasted between 22 and 23 minutes," the notice reads. “In the aftermath of that decision, Twin Spires and Churchill Downs Inc.-related companies promptly announced that their customers would be reimbursed for wagers on Maximum Security, which can be viewed as an admission that Churchill itself disagreed with the stewards’ decision. Those bettors who did not wager through Churchill-related companies were left with no financial recourse, notwithstanding that Churchill received significant revenue from all of the outlets to whom they sent their signal.”

The West family will not comment further on a potential class action suit, though the notice says they have empathy for those whose wagers were affected.

Neither Maximum Security nor Country House will run in the Preakness on May 18.

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