Maximum Security owner: Derby disqualification ‘egregious’

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Maximum Security co-owner Gary West criticized race stewards’ disqualification of his horse’s Kentucky Derby 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 told The Associated Press by phone Saturday night.

Several hours earlier, Maximum Security appeared to back up his undefeated record with a 1}-length victory in the slop over Country House in the Kentucky Derby. The victory was overturned 22 minutes later with a stunning decision by the stewards to disqualify the 9-2 second choice because of interference.

Runner-up Country House, a 65-1 long shot, was elevated to the winner’s circle to the astonishment of Maximum Security’s team, which insisted the horse did not cut off his competitors.

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.

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. “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.”

Maximum Security was dropped to 17th of 19 horses, placed behind all the horses it was determined that he bothered.

Borden did not take questions and exited the news briefing to shouts from reporters about a lack of transparency. West said there wasn’t much jockey Luis Saez could do to control Maximum Security on a sloppy track.

“When you’re leg weary, you’re not going to run straight all the time,” he said. “Horses don’t either.”

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

Trainer Jason Servis agreed with the jockey in the immediate aftermath and added, “He straightened him up right away and I didn’t think it affects the outcome of the race.”

The stewards disagreed, culminating in the first Derby winner being disqualified because of interference. The last objection in the Derby was filed in 2001 by jockey John Velasquez, who claimed interference by winner Monarchos and jockey Jorge Chavez. Stewards did not sustain the objection.

This time, they did.

The controversial finish capped an eventful weekend at Churchill Downs in two of the sport’s marquee races.

Friday’s Kentucky Oaks for fillies began with a scary spill at the start by Positive Spirit that dumped rider Manny Franco. Neither the horse nor rider was injured, and both walked off the track. Serengeti Empress won the race in her first start since pulling up early in March at Fair Grounds with external bleeding.

The incidents come soon after the industry enacted a raft of medication and safety rules changes following the deaths of 23 horses over three months at California’s Santa Anita.

For Maximum Security, the disappointing reversal spoiled what appeared to be his statement performance after 4-0 start.

The son of New Year’s Day and Lil Indy by Anasheed was coming off a 3+-length victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 30 that established him as the Derby’s only unbeaten horse.

For a brief moment, Maximum Security and his team appeared to bask in victory before the long wait and the disqualification, which might not be the final step.

“If we can’t appeal to the stewards,” West said, “our other options are the state racing commission. If those don’t work, we might go to legal options. … But we have not seen what they saw.”

Higher Power wins $1M Pacific Classic

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DEL MAR, Calif. — With his top two horses elsewhere, John Sadler took a chance with a couple others in his barn.

Higher Power paid off.

The 4-year-old colt took command turning into the stretch and won the $1 million Pacific Classic by 5 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on Saturday, making Sadler the first trainer to win the Grade 1 race in consecutive years with different horses.

“The second time is just as sweet,” Sadler said.

In 2018, Accelerate ended Sadler’s 0-for-11 skid with a record 12 1/2-length victory in the West’s biggest race of the summer. Owner-brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis joined Sadler with consecutive victories.

“Winning it back to back is a tribute to John Sadler,” Kosta Hronis said.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Higher Power ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.43 at the seaside track north of San Diego. Sent off at 9-1 odds, the colt paid $21.20, $9.40 and $7.40.

“When we entered the backside he really grabbed the bit and I was travelling really well,” Prat said. “Once the leader fell apart he really jumped into the bridle and did everything on his own, so I thought that was the right move.”

Draft Pick returned $17.40 and $10 at 13-1 odds. Mongolian Groom was another neck back in third and paid $7.20 to show at 18-1 odds.

Higher Power earned an automatic berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita this fall.

Seeking the Soul, the 2-1 favorite, finished seventh.

“He didn’t try at all,” jockey John Velazquez said. “No effort. I don’t get it.”

Sadler’s top two handicap horses, Gift Box and Catalina Cruiser, weren’t in the picture. Gift Box won’t run again until this fall and Catalina Cruiser is tabbed to run next in a sprint race.

Not seeing a dominant horse in the race, Sadler entered Higher Power. The colt responded with the first stakes win of his career.

“It developed pretty much the way we thought,” he said. “We thought there would be some speed on the inside and the plan was to stalk. It came out the way we thought it would.”

Sadler’s other entry, Campaign, finished fifth.

The victory, worth $600,000, increased Higher Power’s career earnings to $800,648, with five wins in 13 starts.

Sadler didn’t get Higher Power in his barn until spring. The colt was with another trainer for the first six starts of his career and then transferred to a different trainer.

In other stakes:

– Acclimate won the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap by a length under Florent Geroux. The 5-year-old brown gelding earned an automatic berth in the BC Turf.

Trained by Phil D’Amato, Acclimate ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:12.71 and paid $16.60 to win at 7-1 odds.

– Cambier Parc shipped in from New York and won the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks by 1 1/4 lengths for trainer Chad Brown.

Ridden by Velazquez, the 3-year-old filly ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:46.75. She paid $4.40 as the 6-5 favorite.

– Fighting Mad cruised to an eight-length victory in the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes.

Ridden by Joe Talamo, the 3-year-old filly ran one mile in 1:38.61. Fighting Mad paid $6.60 as the 2-1 favorite trained by Bob Baffert. She’s owned by Gary and Mary West, owners of Maximum Security, disqualified after finishing first in the Kentucky Derby.

– Mr Vargas won the $100,000 Green Flash Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths.

The 5-year-old gelding ran five furlongs on turf in 56.15 seconds under Talamo. Mr Vargas paid $8.40 to win for trainer Brian Koriner.

Horologist upsets Jaywalk in Monmouth Oaks

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Horologist upset Jaywalk, last year’s juvenile filly champion, in the $162,500 Monmouth Oaks on Saturday.

As expected, 1-5 favorite Jaywalk set the pace until Horologist made a strong run along the rail on the final turn. She slipped by to win by three quarters of a length in the stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Monmouth Park.

Horologist, bred in New Jersey, won for the fifth time in 10 starts for trainer John Mazza. Mazza said he was confident his horse would run a “bang-up race,” but he didn’t know it would be enough to beat a “champion like Jaywalk.”

Angel Suarez was aboard for the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.44.

Jaywalk was coming off a nine-length win in the Delaware Oaks last month. She closed out last season by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to clinch the Eclipse Award.

Horologist – whose name refers to a maker or dealer of timepieces – paid 12.80, $3.40 and $2.10 as the 5-1 second choice in the five-horse field.

Jaywalk returned $2.10 and $2.10. Sweet Sami D paid $2.10 to show, and was followed by Lady Banba and Stay Smart.