The Kentucky Derby disqualification of Maximum Security, the thoroughbred racehorse tipped to win the iconic race, has caused bedlam for bettors and sportsbooks alike. Such an occurrence had never happened before in the race’s 145 year history. Racing fans are now hoping that it never happens again.
In the days leading up to the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, oddsmakers had Maximum Security listed in the middle of the pack at 10 to 1. After the forecasted rain showers soaked the dirt at Churchill Downs, however, official track conditions of “sloppy” pushed noted mudder Maximum Security to favorite status at 4.5 to 1.
The three-year old Kentucky-bred colt – winner of all four career races entering the “Run for the Roses” – subsequently crossed the finish line 1 and ¾ lengths ahead of extreme longshot Country House (65 to 1). Meanwhile, Derby bettors holding Maximum Security tickets were understandably elated.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Las Vegas resident and race fan Kenny Gibson described his thoughts as the #7 horse streaked through the slop for a wire-to-wire victory:
“I’m mentally going ‘What is this going to pay? This is going to be awesome. Obviously, I’m thinking I hit my win bet, my trifecta bet, the exacta. Then I heard someone go, ‘Hang on; there’s an objection.’ And instead, I won no money.”
Like millions of other bettors in America and worldwide, Gibson had fired off a few dollars on various exotic wagers. After bundling the #7 Maximum Security with the #20 Country House in an exacta bet, for example, Gibson expected to bring back hundreds of dollars for every dollar he risked.
But those expectations were dashed after an agonizing 22-minute review, prompted when the owners of ostensible runner-up Country House filed an objection. According to their complaint, Country House had a legitimate chance to win the Derby before Maximum Security and jockey Luis Saez swung wide off the rail and made slight contact with the pack.
Following 22 minutes of intense scrutiny from Churchill Downs’ officials, stewards agreed with the objection and disqualified Maximum Security for leaving his lane and interfering with #18 Long Range Toddy and #21 Bodexpress (71 to 1). When that pair wound up bumping Country House off the pace, stewards ruled that the 65 to 1 longshot was the rightful Derby champion.
The Kentucky Derby disqualification was disastrous news for Gibson and the other bettors. According to Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers, bettors wagered $8.9 million on Maximum Security to either win, place, or show – or nearly nine times the $918,000 handle collected on Country House.
In a press conference held by Churchill Downs, organizers at the venerable racetrack sought to clarify the circumstances surrounding the first disqualified winner in 145 years of Derby history. In her statement, Barbara Borden – who serves as chief steward for the state of Kentucky – provided a detailed rundown of the late-race action:
“The riders of the 18 (Long Range Toddy) and 20 (Country House) horses in the Kentucky Derby lodged objections against the 7-horse (Maximum Security), the winner, due to interference turning for home leaving the 1/4 pole.”
“We had a lengthy review of the race. We interviewed affected riders. We determined that the 7-horse drifted out and impacted the progress of No. 1 (and) in turn interfering with the 18 and 21 (Bodexpress).”
“Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference. Therefore, we unanimously determined to disqualify No. 7 and place him behind the No. 18 – the 18 being the lowest placed horse that he bothered, which is our typical procedure.”
Per the Washington Post, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook would’ve generated a five-figure profit had Maximum Security’s victory held up.
But as Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operations for the SuperBook, revealed, the world’s largest sportsbook wound up incurring a five-figure loss on Country House.
More importantly says Kornegay is how the Kentucky Derby disqualification fiasco will influence public perception of playing the ponies. As Kornegay pointed out, a public favorite going from winner to loser in such unprecedented fashion is likely to turn many bettors off for good:
“The effects of doing something like that first time ever, we’ll have to see how it affects the Preakness (Stakes), if there’s a lingering effect that we might see in a couple weeks.”