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  1. Sports

Country House wins Kentucky Derby after Maximum Security disqualified

For the first time in race history, the first horse across the finish line is disqualified after stewards ruled Maximum Security interfered with the paths of several horses.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maximum Security became the first winner disqualified for interference in the Kentucky Derby’s 145 years, leading to an agonizing wait and an eventual stunning reversal that made 65-1 shot Country House the winner Saturday.

Country House finished second in the slop before an objection was raised, causing a lengthy delay while stewards repeatedly reviewed several angles of video footage before he was elevated into the winner’s circle.

That gave Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his first Derby victory at age 65.

“It’s bittersweet. You always want to win with a clean trip and have everybody recognize the horse as the very good horse and great athlete that he is,” Mott said. “Due to the disqualification, I think some of that is diminished.”

Jockey Flavien Prat, who originated the claim of foul with another rider, also won his first Derby.

“I’m kind of speechless right now,” Prat said, letting out a long sigh.

Country House paid $132.40 to win, the second-highest payout in Derby history.

Country House is the second-biggest long shot to win the Derby, betting website the Action Network said. No. 1 was Donerail in 1913, who went off at 91-1.

Country House was dismissed as a long shot with a bad post on the far outside. It was only the chestnut colt’s second win in seven career starts and his first stakes victory.

The disqualification was a crushing turn of events for Maximum Security trainer Jason Servis and jockey Luis Saez, who already had begun celebrating what they thought were their first Derby victories.

Instead, previously undefeated Maximum Security, winner of the Florida Derby, was dropped to 17th of 19 horses. Sent off as the 9-2 second choice, Maximum Security was placed behind all the horses he bothered.

“I never put anybody in danger,” Saez said.

Servis backed up his jockey, saying: “He’s right. He straightened (Maximum Security) up right away, and I didn’t think it affects the outcome of the race.”

Servis said he did not have a good view of the alleged foul.

Maximum Security co-owner Gary West criticized race stewards’ disqualification of his horse’s victory as “egregious” and said he was pondering his next step, including a possible appeal.

“I think this is the most egregious disqualification in the history of horse racing, and not just because it’s our horse,” West said Saturday night.

West said his team is exploring options to appeal, starting with the stewards. The owner said stewards told him he can see a replay of the incident on Thursday.

Prat claimed that Maximum Security ducked out in the final turn and forced several horses to steady, including Long Range Toddy. War of Will came perilously close to clipping heels with Maximum Security, which could have caused a chain-reaction accident.

The stewards reviewed race footage for nearly 20 minutes while keeping the crowd of 150,729 in suspense, clutching their betting tickets. Trainers and jockeys involved stared at the closest video screen waiting for a result.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission chief steward Barbara Borden said the riders of Long Range Toddy and Country House lodged objections against Maximum Security for interference.

“We had a lengthy review of the race,” Borden said at a news briefing. “We interviewed affected riders. We determined that (Maximum Security) drifted out and impacted the progress of War of Will, in turn interfering with the 18 and 21. Those horses were all affected by the interference.”

Borden did not take questions.

Mott said the incident was caused by Maximum Security’s action and not Saez’s riding tactics.

“I don’t think Luis Saez did anything intentionally,” the trainer said. “My heart actually aches for them a little bit. That’s the way it is. I’ve been on the other end of it, just not in the Kentucky Derby.”

Code of Honor was moved up to second, and Tacitus — also trained by Mott — was third.

Improbable was fourth and Game Winner fifth, two of trainer Bob Baffert’s trio of entries. His other horse, Roadster, was 15th.

The only other disqualification in the Derby occurred long after the race in 1968. Dancer’s Image, the first-place finisher, tested positive for a prohibited medication, and Kentucky state racing officials ordered the purse money to be redistributed. Forward Pass got the winner’s share. A subsequent court challenge upheld the stewards’ decision.

The last claim of foul by a jockey in the Derby was in 2001. John Velazquez, aboard runnerup Invisible Ink, alleged interference at the quarter pole against Monarchos and Jorge Chavez, who crossed the finish line 43/4 lengths in front. The stewards didn’t change the result.

Saturday’s surprising flip threw a few bettors into a frenzy, too. Some who had wagered on Country House to win immediately tossed away their tickets at the finish, only to then scramble to the ground at Churchill Downs, frantically searching for their betting slips.

“It’s something that it’ll give somebody a lot to talk about for a long time,” Mott said.

Master Fencer, the first Japan-bred to run in the Derby, was sixth. War of Will was seventh, followed by Plus Que Parfait, Win Win Win, Cutting Humor, By My Standards and Vekoma.

Bodexpress finished 13th, followed by Tax, Roadster, Long Range Toddy, Maximum Security, Spinoff and Gray Magician.

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