Flavien Prat on Country House, left, races against Luis Saez on Maximum Security, third from left, during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby. Stewards disqualified Maximum Security, who led the race wire to wire, and named Country House the winner. (John Minchillo)
By KENNETH D. MILLER
During a visit to Miles Market the day of the derby, the checker wished me a happy derby day and suggested I drink some mint juleps, the signature and customary beverage of the Kentucky Derby.
Little did the woman know I don’t drink alcohol and a mint julep was not on my menu, but the 145th Kentucky Derby was on the minds of me and millions. I spent hours examining the race and ultimately decided on a $10 to win and $10 to place wager on Maximum Security in the run for the roses in Louisville, Ky.
After devouring my chicken burger patties that I purchased from Miles Market, I waited with abated anticipation of the greatest two minutes in sport to unfold.
Since I rarely ever hit the derby, I didn’t anticipate winning this one especially since I had been on a horrific losing streak that day, swearing that this would be my final day of betting on horses.
I am what you might call a can bettor, a bettor who places small wagers on horses with hopes of cashing in a lot, so on this day wagering roughly $10 a race I was down about $145 bucks, not a lot of money but a lot of agony.
A win in the derby could have made me more than whole for the day if I hit my multiple wager bets, trifectas and exactas correctly picking the exact order of finish of the top three and two horses in the exacta. I was desperate for something good to happen, but anticipating the worse.
Not in my wildest dreams did I image what did happen on May 4th in this derby.
The race time favorite Omaha Beach had been a mid week scratch and the Bob Baffert trio including Game Winner gave me pause for concern. Only Maximum Security stood out and the betting public agreed with me, making my horse the post time favorite.
Maximum Security did exactly what was expected, breaking sharp and avoiding trouble coming out of the gate on a sloppy race track, bursting to the lead and sustaining it through the backstretch and into the stretch, with the roar of 150, 000 spectators screaming and hollering, Maximum Security got spooked from the noise and veered out from the rail approaching the finish line.
Just as I leaped from my couch at my apartment in Warrensville Heights and almost started calculating my winning wagers that would have returned me close to $100 bucks, something strange happened.
Although Jockey Luis Saez pumped his fist in exuberating fashion, the celebration was on, and then it wasn’t.
Jockey Flavien Prat, who rode a 65-1, shot Country House, which finished second, placed a claim of foul on the winning horse, although he was clearly not interfered by the winning horse.
I still held out hope that I could cash, especially since no winning horse had ever been disqualified and taken down during the long history of the derby.
Moreover jockey claim of fouls in even modest claiming cheap races are rarely upheld, but if the stewards launched an inquiry I would have been overly concerned.
Low and behold after a 22 minute suspenseful waiting period, the winner was disqualified, sparking outrage for the connections and the massive betting public, which wagered millions on Maximum Security, but tepid jubilation for the connections of Country House.
Maximum Security was placed 17th of the 19 three-year olds, meaning I couldn’t even salvage a place wager.
My crumbs notwithstanding, but for the millions of novice bettors and observers of the Kentucky Derby they may never understand the disqualification and remain dismayed by the outcome.
They may feel the sport of kings is fixed, like some believe major events such as the Super Bowl or boxing or other sports are influenced by suspect outcomes.
However, the brave stewards at the derby actually got it right, because horses are not allowed to enter into a lane that is not clear. These are the best jockeys in the world and in this instance Saez had no control of the spooked three –year old colt that could have caused a catastrophic turn of events had the No. 1 horse War of Will went to the ground after clipping heels with Maximum Security.
Maximum Security was the best horse in the Kentucky Derby without question, but the New England Patriots was the best football team in Super Bowl XLII in 2008.
However, it was the New York Giants that hoisted the championship trophy.
Country House wore the bed of roses after being awarded the 145th Kentucky Derby and no tweet from President Trump, or complaint from anyone else is going to change that.
People will remember what happened on May 4, 2019 in Louisville Kentucky for a long time, but nothing worth noting here will get me my $20 bucks back.