Country House trainer on Kentucky Derby decision: "I feel terrible that I have to apologize for winning"

Kentucky Derby disqualification raises questions
Kentucky Derby disqualification raises questi... 01:58

Last Updated May 6, 2019 7:44 PM EDT

Kentucky horse racing officials have upheld the unprecedented and controversial decision to overturn the result of the Kentucky Derby, despite a challenge Monday. Maximum Security crossed the finish line first at the world's most famous horse race on Saturday, but his title was taken away after judges determined he'd broken the rules. Country House, a long shot with 65-1 odds, was declared the winner of the first leg of the Triple Crown.

It is the first time in the 145-year history of the Kentucky Derby that an objection led to the winner being stripped of their title. Maximum Security's co-owner Gary West called the decision "the most egregious disqualification in the history of horse racing."

APTOPIX Kentucky Derby Horse Racing
Luis Saez (in pink cap) riding Maximum Security, goes around turn four with Flavien Prat riding Country House (left), Tyler Gaffalione riding War of Will, and John Velazquez riding Code of Honor (right), during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. AP

On Monday, West and his wife Mary, who also co-owns the horse, filed an appeal with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. But late in the day, the commission rejected the appeal, confirming Country House's place in the record books.

From start to finish, Maximum Security was the fastest horse at America's most famous racetrack. "This was my dream, my dream come true," said jockey Luis Saez, after his horse crossed the finish line.

But that unbridled joy didn't last much longer than the race itself. Almost immediately, two riders objected to the result, claiming Maximum Security broke rules by interfering with other horses, drifting into his competitors' race paths and cutting them off.

A review by the track stewards lasted 22 minutes, leading to a historic ruling that stunned millions of viewers watching at home, and enraged bettors who placed more than $6 million on Maximum Security to win.

"I feel terrible that I have to apologize for winning," said Country House trainer Bill Mott, who knows his horse beat overwhelming odds. "I'm thrilled with the horse, I'm thrilled with everybody that worked with the horse. They deserved the win."

Only once before has the fastest horse in the Kentucky Derby been stripped of his title. In 1968, Dancer's Image galloped into the winner's circle, but was disqualified by a failed drug test after the race. Four years of appeals were not successful.

"I could have never have imagined that something like this were to happen," said sports reporter Jody Demling, who has covered the Derby for 30 years. He said disqualifications happen several times a week in races across the country, but this one will likely be viewed as a black eye.

"I think it was the right decision, but it's just such a weird thing for this to happen in the biggest race of the year," Demling said. 

This year's contentious ruling comes as racing faces heightened scrutiny. Since Christmas, 23 horses have died at Santa Anita racetrack in California, partly due to racing or training injuries, reports correspondent Mola Lenghi.

Now, fans of the sport will look ahead to the next two legs of the Triple Crown: The Preakness Stakes on May 18, and the Belmont Stakes on June 8.

And for racing fans who'd put money down on Maximum Security's nose: CBS affiliate WLKY-TV in Louisville reports that Twinspires.com, Churchill Downs' online wagering service, announced that it will give back up to $10 to anyone who bet on Maximum Security to win the Derby.