And that’s why they call it a horse race.
After the favorite, Omaha Beach, was scratched earlier in the week, the new favorite and winner, Maximum Security, was disqualified. As a result, Country House — a 65-to-1 shot — was declared the winner. Code of Honor finished second and Tacitus, third.
Already the fans are crying foul, but the Kentucky Derby’s stewards clearly made the right decision. Apparently, Maximum Security was spooked by the crowd and shifted to his right lead too soon. It happens. Anyone can get nervous. But champions control their nerves. All the horses and all the jockeys in the history of the 145-year-old Derby have had to deal with nerves. They’re no excuse.
Nor is it about whether War of Will would’ve done better or if Country House would’ve won. It’s about Maximum Security impeding another horse.
It’s a shame but Maximum Security, the best horse out there, could’ve caused a serious pileup, and you can’t have one set of rules for one race and another for the Triple Crown. It was a heartbreaking but righteous, gutsy call.
Now the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes are wide open. Will Maximum Security exact revenge? Will Country House continue an improbable run?
And, most important, will a sport that has been rocked by the death of 23 horses at Santa Anita Park in California this past winter recover?
One thing is certain: Today proved that the best horse doesn’t always win.