Maximum Security owner to appeal Derby disqualification

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New York (AFP)

Maximum Security owner Gary West said Monday he will appeal his horse's historic disqualification from the 145th Kentucky Derby after the colt crossed the finish line first.

Race stewards ruled Maximum Security interfered with rivals when he made a move rounding the final turn in Saturday's 1.25-mile (2,012m) dirt classic for three-year-olds at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Country House, a 65-1 longshot that crossed the line 1 3/4 lengths behind wire-to-wire leader Maximum Security, was declared the winner.

It was the first time the horse that crossed the finish line first in the Derby was denied victory because it hindered another horse.

"I was a bit shocked and surprised," West said on NBC's "Today" show, criticizing race stewards for not answering questions about their decision.

"The stewards wrote a statement that was probably prepared by their lawyers and refused, literally refused, to take a single question from the media. So they have been about as non-transparent about this whole thing as anything I've ever seen in my life."

West, 73, said his horse will not run in the May 18 Preakness Stakes at Baltimore, the second leg of American flat racing's Triple Crown, and that he will appeal the outcome to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The commission doe not allow for appeals but West signaled he would look at filing a lawsuit if his appeal goes unheard by the commission.

"If the state racing commission refuses to hear about it, I think this is something that's big enough that the entire racing world is looking at this and I think they deserve an opportunity to really know what was going on," West said.

Maximum Security, among the Derby favorites, was trained by John Servis and ridden by Luis Saez. The horse was running comfortably in front in sloppy conditions but moved sharply out from the rail as the field turned for home, upset by crowd noise according to jockey Saez.

After an objection and a nail-biting 22-minute review, he was ruled to have interfered with War of Will and other horses -- a move stewards ultimately judged significantly affected the outcome of the race.

"The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, all within a 22-minute period," West said. "Winning it was the most euphoric thing I've ever had in our lives and the disappointment when they took the horse down for the first time in history -- we were stunned, shocked, and in complete disbelief. It had never been done before."

- Jockeys sparked review -

In a prepared statement, Barbara Borden, chief steward for the state of Kentucky, said Maximum Security's mis-step affected several horses.

"We had a lengthy review of the race. We interviewed the affected riders. We determined that the 7 horse (Maximum Security) drifted out and impacted the progress of the number 1 (War of Will), in turn interfering with the 18 (Long Range Toddy) and 21 (Bodexpress)," she said.

"Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference, therefore we unanimously determined to disqualify number 7 and place him behind the 18 -- the 18 being the lowest-placed horse that he bothered, which is our typical procedure."

But West noted that it was complaints by two jockeys, those aboard Country House and Long Range Toddy, that launched the review of the results, not an inquiry from the stewards themselves.

"(The stewards) looked at exactly what the whole rest of the world looked at, and they didn't file a steward's inquiry," West said. "So I can't imagine that it was very obvious to them at the time either."