Luis Saez riding Maximum Security, second from right, goes around turn four with Flavien Prat riding Country House, left, Tyler Gaffalione riding War of Will and John Velazquez riding Code of Honor, right, during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Controversial finish at Kentucky Derby sparks debate in U.S., Canadian racing

Victory was overturned 22 minutes later when stewards disqualified Maximum Security for interference

A prominent voice in Canadian horse racing says the wild finish at Saturday’s Kentucky Derby has “opened up the debate” about how the sport is governed in the U.S. and Canada.

Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson says the controversial result may have played out differently if North American racing authorities were to follow an approach that’s been adopted in almost every other country.

Lawson, who sits on the executive committee of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, says race stewards ruled correctly when they disqualified Maximum Security for impeding the path of another horse.

The 9-2 second choice initially appeared to have backed up his undefeated record with a 1 3/4-length victory over Country House on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.

READ MORE: 65-1 longshot Country House wins Kentucky Derby after Maximum Security DQ’d

However, the victory was overturned 22 minutes later when stewards disqualified Maximum Security due to interference, bumping him down to 17th place and elevating Country House to the winner’s circle.

Lawson says in most countries, Maximum Security’s victory would likely have been upheld because officials have more discretion to determine where each horse would have finished had the interference not occurred.

“If the stewards say, ‘No, the best horse won’ — then they leave it,” Lawson said in a phone interview Sunday, referring to countries that follow what the IFHA refers to as “Category 1” rules for interference.

Under so-called “Category 2” rules, however, officials have no such discretion — if a horse is determined to have interfered, it is placed behind the horse that suffered the interference, regardless of what would have been the outcome had there been no interference.

In the case of Saturday’s Derby, Maximum Security was determined to have bothered all but two of the other horses in the race, dropping him into 17th out of 19.

It’s the first time in the Derby’s 145-year history that the winner was disqualified for interference. One of Maximum Security’s co-owners has criticized the disqualification as “egregious” and said he was pondering an appeal.

Lawson said the incident has rekindled a long-simmering debate in racing about harmonizing the rules across all jurisdictions. Almost all countries have adopted Category 1 interference rules, including Australia, Japan, France and the United Kingdom. Canada and the U.S. are among the last holdouts.

“The balance of the world is very critical of North America, and the United States, for not adopting Category 1,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump was also upset with the result, tweeting that the “best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby — not even close!”

— with files from The Associated Press

Adam Burns, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First Energy Metals set to start gold exploration work in the West Kootenay

The work will be conducted at two of its sites near Nakusp and Nelson

Flooding: Why the RDCK ordered hundreds of properties evacuated

All evacuation orders have now been rescinded

No immediate threat of flooding in Nakusp area: RDCK official

High water levels have been reported near Burton and Edgewood last weekend

Nakusp Hot Springs campground opens to RVs today

No tenting will be permitted at the campground at this time

Evacuation orders for Duhamel, Salmo-Ymir and Crawford Creek rescinded

RDCK warns public that streams are still dangerous

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

How to safely drink water in areas impacted by flooding

Quality and safety of drinking water can be affected during and after floods

Most Read