West added that he planned to file an appeal of the stewards’ decision with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, even though state regulations say that the stewards’ decision on any horse race “shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal.”
By Monday evening, the commission had already denied the appeal. A letter from the commission’s general counsel also noted that the decision was not subject to appeal.
“The stewards unanimously disqualified Maximum Security following two objections lodged immediately after the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby and after a thorough review of the race replay. That determination is not subject to an appeal,” the letter stated, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
West had said that the appeal would center not on the decision but the way the stewards went about making the decision. He questioned why the stewards themselves didn’t file an immediate objection after the race, instead waiting for two jockeys to raise the issue. He also wondered why the stewards didn’t take questions from reporters Saturday, instead reading a statement that he claimed was written by lawyers.
“We are going to file an appeal today with the state racing commission,” West told “Today” hosts Savannah Guthrie and Craig Melvin on Monday morning. “Right after the race, I had the trainer call the stewards and very nicely ask them if they would be willing to visit with us after the races were over. We said, ‘We’ll stay here till 11, 12 o’clock at night, whatever you want.' And they said: ‘Absolutely not. We won’t be showing the films until Thursday.’ So we didn’t really have any alternative legally, other than the appeal has to be filed within 48 hours, so we’ll be filing that today.”
The stewards “looked at what the whole rest of the world looked at, and they didn’t file a steward’s inquiry,” West said.
West seemed to indicate that if unsatisfied with that appeal, he might go further. Legal action over a Derby result does have precedent in the sport, with the 1968 Derby, when Dancer’s Image owner Peter Fuller contested his apparent winner’s disqualification after a urinalysis revealed a drug prohibited in Kentucky. That legal argument continued until 1972, when all chances to appeal finally ceased. Forward Pass, who had run second on the track, remained the winner.
“Well, if obviously you can’t appeal it to the stewards who made the decision, if the state racing commission refuses to hear about it, 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,” West said on “Today.” “I was a bit shocked and surprised that the 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.”
Maximum Security led the Kentucky Derby wire-to-wire, but two jockeys appealed the outcome after claiming that the winning horse had veered from his path, impeding the progress of War of Will, who then affected Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress. After a 22-minute review, the stewards agreed and disqualified Maximum Security, elevating second-place Country House into the winner’s circle. That horse’s connections have a decision to make about the Preakness as well.
“Having the Derby winner, you’re pretty much forced to go into the Preakness,” trainer Bill Mott said Sunday. “Frankly, when the horses crossed the wire, I mean, I was elated. I thought our horses ran really well, and being second, I said, ‘Well, there’s no real pressure to go to the Preakness.’ . . . But now we got to rethink that."
West was still talking about the previous race on Monday. He said that he “obviously saw the horse move out” but said such things happen in a race with such a big field, calling Churchill Downs “a greedy organization” for allowing such an unwieldy number.
“I think they ought to have 14 like every other race,” he said Monday.
West and his wife, Mary, are billionaires, their money coming from telemarketing and customer-relations businesses. Their attempts at Kentucky Derby glory haven’t been as successful, however. In 1993, Rockamundo went off at 10-1 but finished 17th, and entries in 2001 and 2005 finished no better than 15th. In 2002, Buddha won the Wood Memorial and was co-second choice on the Kentucky Derby morning line but was scratched the day before the race because of lameness in his left leg.