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Maximum Security owner says he will appeal Kentucky Derby disqualification

Owner Gary West added that Maximum Security will not be running in the Preakness following the controversy at Saturday's Kentucky Derby. "There's no Triple Crown on the line for us."
/ Source: TODAY

The owner of Maximum Security, the horse who was disqualified after winning Saturday's Kentucky Derby, said on TODAY that he will be filing an appeal Monday with Kentucky's state racing commission over the decision.

"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,'' Gary West told Savannah Guthrie and Craig Melvin in an exclusive interview.

"I was a bit shocked and surprised that the (race) 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've been about as nontransparent about this whole thing as anything I've ever seen in my life."

West, 73, also announced that Maximum Security will not be running in the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, the second leg of the Triple Crown, on May 18.

"There's no Triple Crown on the line for us, and there's no reason to run a horse back in two weeks when you don't have to,'' West said.

Maximum Security was the first winner in the race's 145-year history to be disqualified for an infraction. Officials ruled that he impeded the path of War of Will, who then changed course and affected multiple other horses in the field during the race at Churchill Downs.

"It was literally like the old TV show, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat all within a 22-minute period of time,'' West said. "We were stunned, shocked and in complete disbelief. It had never been done before."

Maximum Security, who was undefeated before the race, led the Derby wire to wire and crossed the finish line 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Country House.

But Country House was declared the winner 22 minutes later when race stewards overturned the result following a video review. The change dropped Maximum Security to 17th place, causing audible gasps and groans from fans.

Race officials cited a section of the rulebook that calls for disqualification if "a leading horse or any other horse in a race swerves or is ridden to either side so as to interfere with, intimidate, or impede any other horse or jockey," according to The Associated Press.

Country House, who entered the race as a 65-1 long shot, was awarded the race's $1.86 million prize.

"I think this is the most egregious disqualification in the history of horse racing, and not just because it's our horse," West told The Associated Press Saturday night.

The controversy began when the jockeys riding Long Range Toddy, the No. 18 horse, and Country House, who wore No. 20, filed complaints against Maximum Security for interference after the race.

"We had a lengthy review of the race," Kentucky Horse Racing Commission chief steward Barbara Borden told The Associated Press in a statement. "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."

West argued that the infraction couldn't have been that clear if the race stewards didn't initiate their own inquiry and took action only after receiving complaints from the two jockeys.

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