weather icon Partly Cloudy

Preakness looms, but Derby DQ continues to generate controversy

Updated May 16, 2019 - 6:30 pm

We’re supposed to be talking about the Preakness Stakes this week, and we will, I promise. But first it’s time for another installment of “DQs of Our Lives.”

Since I last wrote about the Kentucky Derby disqualification of Maximum Security last week, several new developments occurred in what promises to be a long-running soap opera.

First the Churchill Downs stewards issued a ruling Sunday suspending Maximum Security’s jockey Luis Saez for 15 days for “failure to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course, thereby causing interference with several rivals that resulted in the disqualification of his mount.”

That’s a stiff penalty for an incident in which many, including myself, felt he bore no responsibility, since Maximum Security appeared to shift suddenly to the outside nearing the stretch when he was startled.

Then, on Wednesday it was reported that Maximum Security’s owners, Gary and Mary West, had filed suit in U.S. District Court in Kentucky seeking to overturn the disqualification and reinstate the original order of finish.

I handicap their probability of success as being longer than Mine That Bird’s 50-1 odds in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, but we know how that turned out. And the lawsuit does raise some questions of merit.

Among them, why didn’t Churchill Downs stewards — chief steward Barbara Bowen, Brooks “Butch” Becraft and Tyler Picklesimer — light the inquiry sign, even after they received two separate claims of foul from jockeys Flavien Prat and Jon Court, riders of Country House and Long Range Toddy, respectively? Did they not see the incident or did they just forget to do so once they realized that the outcome of the race was in their hands?

Why did they say they had “interviewed affected riders” before rendering their decision? According to the lawsuit, they failed to speak with either Tyler Gafflione, jockey of War of Will, or Chris Landeros, rider of Bodexpress, both of whom experienced significant trouble.

We’ll see what the court has to say, but the lawsuit highlights how the stewards’ traditional reluctance to explain what goes into their decisions has only thrown gasoline onto this particular fire.

It’s time for the judges to halt the Wizard of Oz act (“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”) and throw back the curtain so that bettors and fans can follow the discussion and see how they arrive at a tough decision. It’s an opportunity for horse racing to lead the way on transparency.

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicappers are tackling the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes, second jewel of the Triple Crown, as well as the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes immediately preceding it on Saturday’s card at Pimlico.

In the latter, the crew is narrowly siding with 3-1 morning line favorite Catholic Boy in his return from a six-month layoff, over Inspector Lynley (7-2) and Admission Office (12-1).

I agree on Catholic Boy, who has a big class edge here and has run well fresh in the past. I’ve got O Dionysus (15-1) in the place slot and Admission Office to show.

With the four horses who crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby — including the disqualified Maximum Security — all passing the 1 3/16ths-mile Preakness, casual fans will likely tune out Saturday. That’s a shame, as the race is one of the most wide-open runnings in years as a result.

The crowd ’cappers are sensing the opportunity for a big score and siding with local hero Alwaysmining (8-1 on the morning line) over 5-2 morning line favorite Improbable and Bourbon War (12-1).

“Obviously likes to win and should be in the mix here,” wrote Andrew Milbrooke of the group’s pick, referring to the Stay Thirsty colt’s six straight wins at Laurel Park.

I’m looking to beat the Derby also-rans as well, but I’ll try to do it with Warrior’s Charge (12-1), a speedster taking a big step up in class for trainer Brad Cox. I’ve got Improbable in second and Anothertwistafate in third.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Friday. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

Kentucky Derby Lawsuit by on Scribd

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Sports Betting Spotlight Videos