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Owners of disqualified Kentucky Derby winner plan appeal

Country House makes history by winning the Kentucky Derby after initial winner Maximum Security for impeding the lane of War of Will.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The owners of Maximum Security say they will appeal a federal judge’s dismissal of their lawsuit that seeks to challenge the decision to disqualify their horse as winner of the Kentucky Derby.

Gary West said in a statement Monday that he has authorized his attorneys to file an appeal. West and his wife, Mary, who live in Southern California, own the horse.

U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell issued a ruling Friday in which she said “Kentucky’s regulations make clear that the disqualification is not subject to judicial review. Further, the disqualification procedure does not implicate an interest protected under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

Caldwell said Kentucky regulations state that the stewards’ decision in determining fouls and disqualifications of horses “is final and not subject to appeal.”

West said the court’s decision “literally puts Kentucky’s stewards above the law.”

“The transparency and reviewability of decisions by stewards is essential to the integrity of racing in America and is critical to the public’s confidence in the sport,” West said.

He said the case has grown beyond him wanting a court to review the stewards’ DQ.

“It’s now a case about due process and the fundamental fairness of how racing is conducted in Kentucky,” West said. “The Kentucky State Racing Commission should be ashamed to have created a “rule” like this; it is no wonder most people routinely question stewards’ rulings on disqualifications.”

The Wests wanted the court to reverse the stewards’ decision and find that their decision violated the couple’s constitutional rights to due process. They also wanted to have the $3 million Derby purse redistributed to them, jockey Luis Saez and trainer Jason Servis.

The Wests filed the lawsuit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and its executive director, members and stewards in May, after Maximum Security was the first horse across the finish line in the 145th Derby but was later disqualified.

The Churchill Downs stewards determined after a race review that Maximum Security had drifted out and interfered with several other horses’ progress. Country House, who finished second, was declared the winner.