A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Maximum Security owners on Friday, who were claiming that their constitutional rights had been violated when stewards disqualified the colt as this year’s Kentucky Derby winner.
The ruling comes more than six months after the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) panel of three judges took more than 20 minutes to decide that the horse owned by Gary and Mary West impeded the progress of War of Will in the final turn and induced contact with other horses.
As a result, stewards placed Maximum Security 17th, one spot behind Long Range Toddy, who had been affected by the lowest placement horse ruled by stewards. This decision meant that that winner was 65-1 Country House. It was the second-highest price charged for a Derby winner at Churchill Downs at $132.40 for a winning ticket.
It was the first time in the 145-year history of Derby that a stewards’ ruling took a winning horse down. Making the ruling even more controversial is that Maximum Security led wire-to-wire and an inquiry was filed by none of War of Will’s connexions. The stewards have not posted an inquiry after the race either. Only after Jon Court, the jockey of Long Range Toddy, filed a complaint, the committee reviewed it.
None of those factors, however, played into the stewards’ ruling, which was the final decision ruled by US District Judge Karen Caldwell.
Caldwell wrote in her 29-page order: “Kentucky’s regulations make clear that the disqualification is not subject to judicial review. Further, the disqualification procedure does not implicate an interest protected under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Caldwell’s decision is open to appeal, and a lawyer for the Wests told the Courier Journal (Louisville) on Friday night that they believe they have a good case to bring to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On May 14, eight days after the KHRC denied their protest on the grounds that stewards ‘ decisions could not be appealed, the Wests filed the federal lawsuit in the federal court of Kentucky’s Eastern District.
In the suit, the couple claimed that they were denied a share of the nearly $1.9 million purse as well as “a professional accomplishment that any horseman would cherish for life, plus the very substantial value that a Kentucky Derby winner has as a stallion.” However, Caldwell said that Kentucky’s horse racing regulations do not grant a “right to benefits” to win any race, including the Derby.
“The Wests have not established that the defendants’ conduct deprived them of a protected life, liberty, or property interest,” the judge wrote. “Accordingly, their procedural due process claim based upon how the stewards arrived at the decision to disqualify Maximum Security must be dismissed.”
In the weeks ahead, following the litigation, Maximum Security may be able to return to the Louisville track.
Ben Glass, who serves as the racing manager of the Wests, told HorseRacingNation that this year’s owners and trainer Jason Servis are looking to race once again before preparing for the $9 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida in January.
One possibility is the Clark Handicap from Churchill that will be running on November 29.
Maximum Security finished second in the Pegasus Stakes in Monmouth Park back in June in his first appearance after the Derby DQ. However, a month later, after claiming Monmouth’s Haskell Invitational, he found himself back in the winner’s circle, although he also had to survive an inquiry in that race.
Maximum Security led wire-to-wire in his last race, the Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park on October 26, winning as the 3-5 favourite by nearly two lengths.
Maximum Security has won six times in eight career starts, seven this year, and finished second twice.
His only board finish was in the Kentucky Derby.