To say that the 2019 running of the Kentucky Derby was controversial would be an understatement, so let me share some thoughts with you.
In the aftermath of the disqualification of Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby, prominent owners Gary and Mary West had a chance to handle themselves with dignity and grace. They had a chance to do their sport proud in a moment of controversy. They had a chance to stand tall and, essentially, be a gracious loser. Instead, they took the liberties to whine about Churchill Downs, argue the stewards of the sport got it wrong, complain to anyone who would listen, and generally embarrass the sport they so dearly love.
Yep. The same type of whining and complaining came out of California Chrome’s corner a few years ago when he got beat in the Belmont Stakes. I guess that is what happens when you are from California and you lose The Big One.
The truth is thoroughbred racing is a Big Boy sport. There is no place in the game for rich, wealthy, entitled whiners. Actually, there is no place in the sport for any kind of whiner. That is exactly what Gary and Mary West projected themselve to be in the agony of their Kentucky Derby takedown. They are as prominent as they come in the game, owning top horses from Coast to Coast. Maybe that is the problem. They feel so entitled they have forgotten that racing oversight is what protects the game. Regardless, in that one rare moment of despair, they could have done the sport of thoroughbred racing a great service by excepting that their horse simply broke the rules. In doing so, they would have projected to the world that racing got it right, that the sport puts integrity ahead of all else. Instead, by threatening lawsuits and acting like their horse didn’t do anything wrong, they cast a dark cloud over sport that really needed some good news.
Lets be clear that the best horse didn’t win the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Maximum Security led wire to wire, and pulled away at the end of the race for a convincing win. He also went from the two path to the seven path coming out of the final turn, clearly interfering with three other horses, almost creating a catastrophic wreck for the ages. How Tyler Gafflione kept his mount up when Maximum Security fouled him is beyond belief. Thoroughbred racing, and the Wests, owe those connections a debt of gratitude for not flinching on national television. Can you imagine what Gary and Mary West would be doing if Gafflione had gone down? Instead of apologies they would probably have spent the evening of the Kentucky Derby at the hospital, hoping for the best.
There will always be those people who cry foul when a decision like this one is rendered. The race stewards in the State of Kentucky had no choice by to disqualify Maximum Security. It wasn’t just the courageous thing to do, it was the right thing to do. Racing often times overlooks fouls of this nature. All you have to do is go back to Bayern’s Breeders Cup Classic victory at Santa Anita to see what I am talking about. But they shouldn’t overlook such fouls. What Maximum Security did was the equivilent to a mugging when the money was on the line, so a decision had to be rendered. In disqualifying the No. 7 horse, the Kentucky stewards protected the integrity of the sport at a time when integrity issues in sports, or lack thereof, is at an all-time high.
Maximum Security will live to fight another day, and the whining you hear coming out of Sante Fe, California will soon subside. But, let me go on record as the one saying maybe Gary and Mary West need to leave thoroughbred racing. Maybe they should be the schoolyard bully and take their ball and leave when things don’t go their way. There are few times when we, as thoroughbred fans, get tested for the grace and dignity this sport so richly deserves. Gary and Mary West were put to that test this past Saturday at Churchill Downs. In the aftermath, they failed miserably.