Stewards who threw the Kentucky Derby to 2nd-place finisher Country House flushed this year’s Triple Crown season down the toilet, but I’m pressing on to the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18.
Since the Derby, many in the racing community have worked up a righteous lather to justify humiliating Maximum Security by disqualifying his legitimate win. You’d think Max ran the race with switchblades on his shoes and cut every horse who dared get too close.
Adding further insult, Max’s jockey, Luis Saez, got belatedly suspended for 15 racing days for “failure to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course.” Yeah, whatever.
A typical suspension is about three days, so Saez is appealing it. But as it stands, the Belmont Stakes on June 8 is conveniently one of the dates he’s forbidden to ride.
Max’s owners have filed a federal lawsuit against the Derby stewards and members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, claiming his disqualification was unconstitutional because the Commission denies due process by claiming stewards’ decisions are final. Apparently, other states, like Louisiana, don’t share this “stewards are gods” stance.
But since neither Max nor Country House are in the Preakness tomorrow, all this human acid reflux is moot.
The Preakness field is only 13 horses. Let’s hope the track dries out (it’s been raining all week), they all keep to themselves and run straight as arrows so those stewards don’t get their panties in a bunch.
War of Will — whom Max allegedly tangled legs with to cause a massive chain reaction, the stewards alleged, that affected nearly every horse EXCEPT Country House — will be in post position 1 under the same jockey, Tyler Gaffalione. He ran 7th in the Derby, but is the second favorite with 4-1 odds. With Max out of the picture, this is War’s chance to show us he can do it.
Also running again is Improbable (new jockey, Mike Smith, 5-2, pp 4). He was one of my picks for the Derby and came in 4th, so I hope he places.
My pick to win is Alwaysmining (Daniel Centeno, 8-1, pp 7). He wasn’t in the Derby, but has won his previous six races, so he’s accustomed to being out front. And, he’s trained by Kelly Rubley, who would be the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race.
The only other horses back for more are Bodexpress (new jockey, John Velazquez, 20-1, pp 9, ran 13th in the Derby) and Win Win Win (Julian Pimentel, 15-1, pp 13, ran 9th in the Derby). The rest of the field is fresh horsefaces.
BONUS: Here’s WaPo’s long-time horse racing columnist Andrew Beyer’s take on the Kentucky Derby and why disqualifying Max based on what might have happened rather than what actually went down was dumb.