The fallout continues from Maximum Security’s DQ in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Co-owner Gary West filed an appeal that was quickly shot down and will not run the horse in two weeks in the Preakness Stakes. That’s a shame because it could’ve been a kind of redemption and Maximum Security could’ve joined Man o’ War and Native Dancer as one of the greatest horses to never win the Derby. (Man o’ War’s owner, August Belmont Jr. — the Belmont Stakes was named after his father — thought his colt too young for the Derby. And the Dancer lost the 1953 Derby to Dark Star in a race in which his jockey, Eric Guerin, was criticized for taking “that colt everywhere around the track except the ladies’ room”.) It was the only race that the Dancer ever lost.
Speaking of jockeys, it’s time to admit that Max’s rider, Luis Saez, cost his horse the victory. It’s the jockey’s job to control the horse. Was it deliberate that the horse veered out of his line or an impulse Saez was slow to correct? Who can say. In the end, you can’t control nature. Human athletes make mistakes in high pressure situations, too. But it’s baloney to say 3-year-olds are inexperienced, that they’re “babies,” as Saez said. How then to explain that Justify, who never raced as a 2-year-old, won the Triple Crown last year?
Or that Whirlaway — who had a tendency to veer in his races — is the only Triple Crown winner to win the Travers Stakes. The quirky Whirlaway — who loved to run but race, not so much — had such trouble staying in his lane that his trainer, the great Ben A. Jones, fitted him with a right eye blinder. For the last workout before the 1941 Derby, Jones cut a tiny hole in it, positioned himself 10 feet off the inner rail and told jockey Eddie Arcaro to steer the horse right through the space. Whirly went on to win, but he never entirely lost his bad habit.
You can’t cause interference, as Maximum Security did, and not expect consequences. And no, President Donald J. Trump, it’s not about political correctness. It’s about following the rules.