Maximum Exposure won…for about 12 minutes until the Kentucky Derby disqualification occurred.
Almost a week after the Run for the Roses was declared official, the buzz over the Kentucky Derby disqualification continues to rage. Country House, the winning horse, will not be going on to the Preakness Stakes May 18 so there will be no Triple Crown contender this year. That’s bad news for NBC, which counts on Triple Crown buzz at least through the second leg. It’s also bad news for casual watchers who root for history. But this year it may be the worst news of all for the Kentucky Derby officials who made “Kentucky Derby Disqualification” a trending social media topic.
For those who may not know what’s going on, here’s what happened to cause the Kentucky Derby disqualification last Saturday. It took place on the turn into the stretch at Churchill Downs.
Maximum Exposure, the #5 horse, led most of the way and was preparing to go down the stretch holding off a half dozen challengers. Still photos reveal that he jumped a puddle on the soaked track, and drifted into the path of War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress. Tyler Gaffalione, riding War of Will, checked up (slowed his horse, in other words) to avoid clipping the heels of Maximum Exposure, who went on to cross the finish line first.
Should the Kentucky Derby disqualification have happened? Or should the stewards have let the race go official as it took place on the track?
According to the track stewards who unanimously decided to disqualify Maximum Exposure, a disastrous pileup of horses was narrowly averted. Gaffalione’s skillful riding the grace of God, and dumb luck all had a hand.
Yes, but there were 20 horses on the track. Aren’t there going to be close quarters?
These are the best horses, ridden by the finest jockeys in the world. Close quarters, yes. But, slow-motion footage showed 4-6 strides where Maximum Exposures’ left rear hoof was actually between War of Will’s front hooves. That’s more than close quarters. Racing rules of etiquette and safety say that a horse must keep a straight path unless it has clearance in front of, or behind, adjacent horses. Maximum Exposure was not clear of War of Will.
But, this was the Kentucky Derby, and it has never happened before. Are we just so whiny and litigious nowadays that we will complain and challenge everything?
I doubt it, and the rules should be the rules. Whether it is in front of 150,000 people at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, or in front of 250 people on a random Tuesday in August at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale, CA. It is a fairness issue, a safety issue, and a rules issue, all at once.
But…Maximum Exposure’s owner, trainer, and jockey…
It is a bad break for them. That’s for sure, and we may still hear some kind of legal-type challenge to the Kentucky Derby disqualification. But, that would be unfortunate, because there is little that can be done. Also, a legal challenge will remove Maximum Exposure’s connections from being the sympathetic characters they are today. They would just be losers trying to win through legal measures.
We will always remember the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.
You can bet on it.