Country House win in 2019 Kentucky Derby upheld by appeals court

Pat McDonogh-Courier Journal
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal appeals court upheld the decision by Churchill Downs stewards that made Country House the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

This year’s Derby is Sept. 5 after being rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati on Friday affirmed a U.S. District Court decision to dismiss a lawsuit by Gary and Mary West, who own Maximum Security. Their horse crossed the finish line first in last year’s Derby but was disqualified for interference. Runner-up Country House was declared the winner.

“I am obviously disappointed in the court’s decision, but it is time to move on and there will be no further appeals,” Gary West said in a text message to The Associated Press.

The Wests sued the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, its executive director, members and stewards after the race in May 2019. That November, federal Judge Karen Caldwell dismissed their suit seeking to challenge the decision to disqualify their horse.

The Wests sought to reverse the track stewards’ decision, contending it violated their rights to due process. They also wanted the $3 million Derby purse redistributed.

Caldwell said Kentucky rules state that the stewards’ decision in determining fouls and disqualifications of horses is “final and not subject to appeal.” The stewards found after a race review that Maximum Security had drifted out and interfered with other horses’ progress.

Maximum Security won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 22. The Wests switched the colt to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert after Jason Servis, who previously trained Maximum Security, was indicted in March on federal charges of doping horses.

Country House never raced again after the Derby. He was retired in March because of laminitis, a hoof inflammation that can cause severe pain and lameness.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

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BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.