Kentucky Derby 2019

By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

For the 145th Kentucky Derby, May 4, 2019, the weather conditions were among the worst, with rain falling all Saturday afternoon, and producing an extremely sloppy, muddy track. But last year (2018) was the wettest Derby Day, when 3.15 inches of rain fell. Attendance this year of 150,729 was 4% less than last year, as the threat of all-day rain kept many fans away. This year’s Derby purse was elevated $1 million to a guaranteed $3 million, making it the richest in history for America’s first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. 

In the prelude to race day, Arkansas Derby winner, and Kentucky Derby 4-1 favorite, Omaha Beach was withdrawn from the Derby due to an entrapped epiglottis, a non-serious condition that is correctable through surgery, but with a three-week recovery time.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, by Bonnie R. Rush, DVM College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University: “Epiglottic entrapment is a less common cause of respiratory noise and exercise intolerance. …Clinical signs of epiglottic entrapment include inspiratory and expiratory respiratory noise during exercise and poor exercise performance. Less common signs include cough, nasal discharge, and headshaking. …Diagnosis is determined by endoscopic examination. Surgical correction …is generally curative, with a relapse rate of 5%. Some affected horses can race successfully with the condition.” [source:]

 Despite running in the rain over a very sloppy track, Maximum Security broke well from the starting gate, moved to the lead, and held his position and pace all the way, crossing the finish line first in 2:03.93 over 1 ¼ miles. He “swept to the front under jockey Luis Saez and set splits of :22.31, :46.62, 1:12.50 and 1:38.63 down the backstretch and around the final turn. …Heading into the lane, Maximum Security repelled all comers to post a final time of 2:03.93 for 1 1/4 miles.” [source:]

However, just after the race, jockey Flavien Prat lodged an objection. “Repeated replays showed Maximum Security drifting off the rail in the final bend and floating other rivals wide. Following a long stewards’ inquiry, Maximum Security was disqualified and Country House crowned the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby.”  [source:] This was only the second disqualification in the race’s 145-year history, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

The three stewards, Barbara Borden, chief steward, Butch Becraft and Tyler Picklesimer, reviewed film footage and took over 20 minutes to make their decision. Spokesperson Barbara Borden issued an official statement: “The riders of the 18 (Long Range Toddy) and 20 (Country House) horses in the Kentucky Derby lodged objections against the 7 (Maximum Security) horse, the winner, due to interference turning for home, leaving the 1/4 pole.

“We had a lengthy review of the race. We interviewed affected riders. We determined that the 7 horse drifted out and impacted the progress of Number 1 (War of Will), in turn, interfering with the 18 and 21 (Bodexpress).  Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference.

“Therefore, we unanimously determined to disqualify Number 7 and place him behind the 18, the 18 being the lowest‑placed horse that he bothered, which is our typical procedure.” [source:]
Final results for the “run for the roses” were:

1st: Country House
2nd: Code of Honor
3rd: Tacitur
4th: Improbable
5th: Game Winner

Find full results on the Kentucky Derby website:

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