Tempers still are flaring over Saturday’s controversial finish to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and now the connections of War of Will have entered the fray.
War of Will trainer Mark Casse, whose horse was involved in the interference that eventually disqualified Maximum Security from victory, on Tuesday compared the ride by Maximum Security’s Luis Saez to that of “a drunk driver” and accused the jockey of intentionally trying to block other horses.
“I tried to handle this in a nice, quiet way, and I didn’t think there was enough said about the trip our horse had,” Casse told the Courier Journal on Tuesday. “Now, given some of the recent comments, I’m pissed off.”
Casse said he was reacting to comments made Monday night by Maximum Security owner Gary West on the Fox News program “The Story with Martha MacCallum.”
West blamed War of Will jockey Tyler Gaffalione for initiating the contact with Maximum Security on the final turn.
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“I think when it’s all said and done and all the evidence is put on display, frame by frame in slow motion, you will find that the 1 horse (War of Will) actually caused the infraction, not our horse,” West said. “And … I believe it will eventually show that if the 1 horse would have finished ahead of our horse, we would have had every right in the world to claim an objection against the 1 horse.”
Maximum Security crossed the finish line first Saturday – 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Country House – but was disqualified to 17th place after a 21-minute review by the race stewards. After the race, chief steward Barbara Steward said Maximum Security was disqualified for drifting out and impacting the progress of War of Will, who in turn interfered with Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress.
While stewards didn’t immediately post an inquiry sign to investigate the incident, Country House jockey Flavien Prat and Long Range Toddy jockey Jon Court both filed objections.
West said he plans to file a lawsuit “in the appropriate jurisdiction” after the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Monday denied his appeal of the stewards’ decision.
On Tuesday, Casse said Saez and Maximum Security were at fault twice during the race – once entering the final turn and once exiting it, or the “main event” as Casse called it.
While looking at still photos from the race, Casse said Saez – while riding the rail – looks over his right shoulder in attempt to block oncoming horses while entering the final turn.
“He carried everybody out intentionally, and then he dives in,” Casse said. “It’s almost like following a drunk driver. You don’t know which direction he’s going to go. … People were taking shots at Tyler, saying he should have went inside or should have went outside. That really upset me. I went back and watched the entire race and noticed that we were bothered not just in the main event, but we were herded prior to that.”
Via Twitter, Gaffalione commented Tuesday, writing, “Never did I bump or push anyone.”
Saez has not responded to requests for comment but said after the race his horse shied away from the roar of the crowd and “ducked out a little.”
War of Will owner Gary Barber also issued a statement Tuesday, defending Gaffalione.
“The video evidence irrefutably shows that (West’s) horse, Maximum Security, caused a major infraction that almost led to a catastrophe and in doing so denied my horse and others of a better placing,” Barber said. “The facts are Maximum Security is a great horse that crossed the line first in the Derby but unfortunately committed a major infraction that denied him a Derby victory. … It is wrong for (West) to deflect blame anywhere else.”
“It’s almost like following a drunk driver. You don’t know which direction he’s going to go.”
The question of which horse is best likely won’t be decided any time soon. Maximum Security and Country House both plan to skip the May 18 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Casse said he’s planning to enter War of Will in the Preakness but will wait until next week to commit.
“With all of the emotions flowing, I just want to make darn sure that we go for the right reasons,” Casse said. “Yes, the plan is to go, but I’m not going to let emotions get the best of me.”
Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; [email protected]; Twitter: @KentuckyDerbyCJ.