Kentucky Derby FAQ: What’s next and other burning questions

Still have burning questions about Maximum Security’s disqualification in the 2019 Kentucky Derby and wonder what happens next on the Triple Crown trail? Here’s a handy guide:

Will Maximum Security run in the Preakness Stakes?

According to his owner, Gary West, Maximum Security will skip the Preakness on May 18.

Once upon a time, it was no big deal for a horse to go only one or two weeks between races. Sir Barton, who won the Triple Crown in 1919 before it was officially an event, actually won the Preakness just four days after winning the Kentucky Derby.

That sort of thing would never happen today, as stakes-level horses routinely go four to six weeks between races. Running two races in two weeks is rare, and trainer Jason Servis has been particularly careful with this colt.

West said there was no reason to run back in two weeks without a Triple Crown on the line, but he didn’t say where the horse would go next.

Will Maximum Security’s owners appeal?

West said he plans to file an appeal with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, but his options seem limited. KHRC regulations state: “Findings of fact and determinations shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal.” Some members of the commission have already backed the stewards publicly, so West would likely have to pursue the matter in court.

How many DQs have occurred in the Kentucky Derby?

The disqualification of Maximum Security was the first DQ due to race riding in the 145-year history of the event, but it’s not the first DQ ever. In 1968, Dancer’s Image was disqualified several days following the race after he tested positive for a now-legal drug that was banned in Kentucky at the time. Forward Pass was declared the winner. The matter was taken to court, where it dragged on for years until Forward Pass was upheld as the winner in 1972.

What happened after the last DQ?

Dancer’s Image ran one more time in the Preakness. Oddly enough, he finished third behind winner Forward Pass but was disqualified again — this time for bumping another horse — and placed eighth. He never raced again due to ankle issues.

What happens next?

According to Kentucky racing commission regulations, the timeline for appeals seems to be from 48 hours to one week maximum for this type of incident.

West seemed to think his limit was 48 hours, and said he was frustrated that the stewards did not want to meet and review video of the incident until Thursday, which is when Churchill Downs begins racing again.

In the matter of Dancer’s Image, the trophy and purse money were put in escrow until legal proceedings were over, which is also what the regulations state to do in these types of situations.

“If purse money or trophy has been awarded to an owner prior to the lodging of an objection or discovery of an alleged violation of an administrative regulation which places the outcome of a race in dispute, the money or trophy shall be returned immediately to the association on order of the stewards,” the regulations read. “Upon final adjudication of the dispute, the person deemed to be entitled to the purse money or trophy shall be entitled to an order of recovery from any person or association holding the same. … The horse that crossed the finish line first and any other horse that may become the winner of a disputed race shall be considered winners of that race until the matter is finally adjudicated.”

Does Saturday’s result affect Maximum Security’s value?

Possibly. Winning a Kentucky Derby immediately increases the value of a colt for breeding purposes. And even the owner of Dancer’s Image complained that the DQ and court battle had damaged the colt’s reputation to the point where breeders weren’t especially interested. Indeed, Dancer’s Image had an undistinguished stud career and was sent out of the country, where he eventually died in Japan.

Obviously, this is a different situation. While stud farms won’t be able to advertise “Derby winner” to potential clients, where Maximum Security actually placed on paper shouldn’t matter much to breeders who saw him run. If he comes back after skipping the Preakness and wins the Belmont Stakes, his value will just go up again.

Why didn’t the Churchill Downs stewards take any questions?

The stewards issued a statement to the media following the conclusion of all the races Saturday, and it was likely that they were reluctant to do even that. Discussing these decisions publicly is not normal procedure, and most decisions are made in private.

Although these types of situations happen daily at tracks across the country, they are rare in big races such as this one. In 2014, the stewards at Santa Anita Park were heavily criticized for their decision not to disqualify Bayern from the Breeders’ Cup Classic after he badly bumped Shared Belief at the start of the race.

In that situation, it was actually the stewards who posted the inquiry instead of the jockey, and trainer Bob Baffert said at the time that his jockey wasn’t going to file an objection. The Santa Anita stewards released a statement at the time instead of answering questions, but did hold a press conference the following day.

The Kentucky stewards will likely continue to receive heavy criticism for their decision not to speak more about the issue, and West said they’ve been “nontransparent.”

However, it’s likely they wanted to say as little about the issue as possible if an appeal indeed occurs.

Is the Derby field size a problem?

West went on the “Today” show on Monday and said he thinks the Kentucky Derby has gotten too big due to the greed of Churchill Downs, citing the cap of 14 entrants in the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup races.

There have been many arguments over the years that the Derby should be run with fewer horses, and one suggestion is that number be 14, which is the typical number of horses one starting gate can hold. Churchill Downs has to use an auxiliary gate in order to have a 20-horse field.

The Derby field was capped at 20 horses following a record 23-horse field in 1974, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that 20 horses actually became the standard. The average field size this decade is 19.4 runners vs. the average of 14.9 seen in the 1970s. Saturday’s race featured 19 horses after two horses scratched.

Don’t expect anything to change soon with so many owners desperate to run their horses in one of the world’s most important races.

What were the betting ramifications?

Per Churchill Downs, the Derby set an all-time record for handle with $165.5 million on wagering from all-sources, up 10 percent from last year’s record handle of $149.9 million. And the disqualification cost bettors who backed Maximum Security to win, place or show approximately $9 million, according to betting statistics provided by online horse racing site

Could Country House skip the Preakness too?

Unlikely, but possible. Country House’s trainer, Bill Mott, acknowledged they’d be pointing to the Belmont instead if they hadn’t won the race. He also knows that it would be a wildly unpopular move with the racing public because the Triple Crown is on the line.

Barring injury or illness, it almost never happens these days for the Derby winner to skip the Preakness. Grindstone didn’t race in the Preakness in 1996 because of an injury, and the owners of Spend a Buck opted for the more lucrative Jersey Derby in 1985.

When 1982 long shot Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol skipped the Preakness to focus on the Belmont, his trainer, Eddie Gregson, said right after the Derby that it was too quick of a turnaround.

According to articles written at the time, Chick Lang, then the general manager of Pimlico Race Course where the Preakness is held, threatened to put a mule or goat in the stall reserved for the Derby winner when he heard the news, but instead locked up the stall in protest.

It would be surprising if Country House’s connections invite another controversy and skip the Preakness if he is training well.

Is Country House the longest shot to win the Derby?

No. That honor belongs to Donerail, who won the Derby in 1913 at 91-1 odds and paid $184.90 for a $2 bet. Giacomo (2005) and Mine That Bird (2009) were also huge upsets, going off at odds of 50-1.

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