If you were one of thousands of people to watch the 2019 Kentucky Derby, congratulations, you witnessed history.
We’re not talking about the kind of history that everyone was expecting. As the most watched horse race in the world, the Kentucky Derby attracts a certain amount of attention every year. Ladies don their fashionable hats, men pull on their blazers, and everyone sips overpriced mint juleps as they fill the stands at Churchill Downs. Bets are made, and in homes everywhere, TVs and smartphones are tuned to catch the results.
Even people who don’t follow horse racing know what the Kentucky Derby is all about. This year, with blight after blight plaguing the sport, there were arguably more eyes turned toward the track than usual. With a string of horse deaths at Santa Anita, and even a call to end the sport of horse racing all together, everyone held their breath as the biggest race of the year was set to begin. The race itself lasted a mere two minutes, but the results will go down in history in an unexpected and controversial way.
Turning for home…. pic.twitter.com/m3jXUVmAym
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) May 5, 2019
The trouble started with the weather. True to spring in Kentucky, May 5, 2019 was wet and rainy. The track that would host the horse race was a ring of mud and puddles, and jockeys knew one of their biggest challenges of the day would be guiding their horses to safe footing. Rain or shine, the race would go on, and the spectacle started off as usual. The horses and their jockeys exploded out of the gates, but coming around a turn, there was a commotion. Right around the quarter pole, a fan favorite, Maximum Security, jumped a puddle and veered to the side. In doing so, he caused several other horses racing nearby to break their strides.
After those few seconds of tension, Maximum Security regained his confidence and flew to the front of the pack. He crossed the finish line almost two lengths ahead of the horse behind him, and his jockey, owners, and everyone who made a bet on his win celebrated.
After an inquiry ruling, 65-1 Country House is the winner of the Kentucky Derby. pic.twitter.com/BPYXyEdmWb
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) May 4, 2019
But that wasn’t the end of the race. Due to the commotion earlier in the run, a complaint was lodged. The three racing referees, called stewards, convened to discuss whether Maximum Security should be the true winner. It was their job to determine whether or not the puddle-jumping incident was extreme enough to change the results. And most of all, they had to make the weighty decision of whether or not it was enough of a disturbance to rewrite history for the biggest horse race of the season.
After much deliberation, it was announced that even with his impressive first-place finish, Maximum Security would not being going down in history as the 145th winner of the Kentucky Derby. That coveted title was officially handed to the second place horse, Country House. With his 65-1 chances of winning, Country House is now the second-biggest long shot to ever win the derby.
Fans were stunned at the outcome, and everyone was left with questions as the stewards announced their decision and didn’t bother to elaborate. Many believe the decision had to do with Maximum Security’s trainer, Jason Servis, being a respective no-name in the business with his own set of controversies. Whether that’s true or not, the disqualified horse’s owner, Gary West, announced on Monday that he plans to appeal the ruling. He also stated that in protest, Maximum Security will not be competing in the upcoming second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness States.
Traditionally, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission does not allow appeals, and no one is quite sure what to do with West’s announcement. There are even hints of an impending lawsuit. With the status of horse racing already on shaky ground, the future of the sport after this unprecedented weekend is still unclear.
Watch the full race here:
Featured image via Twitter/Kentucky Derby