Spellman Says

LEXINGTON, Ky. – By now, anyone that pays attention to horse racing knows that Maximum Security was disqualified from the Kentucky Derby in a historic callback after impeding another racer. 

Sparking a fiery debate between keyboard warriors and racing enthusiasts alike – whether in support of the decision or not – some Jefferson County residents may not know the implications it holds on their small pocket in the world.  

Jason Servis, a graduate of Jefferson High School and well known horse trainer, is at the epicenter of the Churchill Downs hysteria. As the trainer of Maximum Security, Servis is the front man for interviews. He’s already been named in some of the national news articles and will surely be mentioned in stories for years to come.  

I’m sure some people have gone after Servis for the interference, but if you think he’s to blame for this, let me be the first to tell you that you’re being ridiculous. 

The fact of the matter is that Servis is not well known within the national circuit, but has been consistently winning predating the 145th Kentucky Derby. In an opinion piece by USA Today writer Dan Wolken, Servis was quoted last year in reference to his win-uptick, defending himself from what some people thought was cheating, saying, “People are talking a lot of (expletive),” Servis told Horse Racing Nation, “and I’m really not happy about it.”

After the race, with a more humble tone about him, Servis was quoted as saying, “I don’t think it changed the outcome of the race. It’s tough. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it will.”  

One can read the reactions of those on the internet, like Wolken, and more famously the President of the United States, claiming that Maximum Security was robbed. What that person probably won’t see are many defending the ruling. This isn’t a recap of the race, nor is it a defense for the stewards – who are the one’s to blame if this turns out to be a wrong call; simply, my goal is to lay out the facts – that being said, the fact stands that the 65-1 shot horse was declared the winner. It can still be appealed, but – in my opinion – the interference was as blatant as the Ram’s pass interference against the Saints. 

Servis and the jockey don’t agree, as they stated on the record, “He straightened him up right away and I didn’t think it affects the outcome of the race.”

As for Country House winning, I’m not going to delve into that can of worms. The official statement made by the stewards seems to put Country House in the background as unaffected.  

The statement by Chief State Steward Barbara Borden reads: “We had a lengthy review of the race, we interviewed affected riders and we determined the 7 horse (Maximum Security) drifted out and impacted the progress of No. 1 (War of Will), in turn interfering with the 18 (Long Range Todd) and 21 (Bodexpress). Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference, and therefore we unanimously determined to disqualify No. 7 and place him behind No. 18.”  

To be frank, I don’t know a lot about horse racing. My main job as the only writer for the Spirit is to cover  prep sports and the occasional Shepherd event. I understand football, basketball, softball, baseball, tennis et cetera – it’s my job. I understand what you all want to read about a standout player, or that you want to know the deep thoughts of a coach when a 16-game losing streak is broken.  

But, in a case like this, I know when people – those blasting the stewards, specifically – are wrong. So, to understand things a little better, I spoke local stable owner, David Rose. Rose knows horse racing, through and through. Growing up in Southern California – around Los Angeles – Rose was raised around horse racing at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar ovals.  

Setting up shop after moving to Charles Town on February 1, 2001, Rose had around 30 to 35 horses in training in his opening years, but according to Rose has curtailed business quite drastically over the years. With some still in training at this time, he’s made his impact in Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.  

“Taking nothing away from the performance of Maximum Security, he ran an incredible race, but did impede others nearing the top of the stretch when he ducked out sharply,” Rose said. “It seems there are various reasons why people are upset about the disqualification. One reason is probably because Maximum Security was the favorite,  so a lot of people bet money on him. Many gamblers get very animated in their reactions in situations like this.” 

On a Facebook post showing the interference, Rose backed up the steward’s call simply by writing, “Enough said.”  

Some folks didn’t agree with that sentiment, and needed to say more. The top comment, says, “Bull***. Weak.”  

Yikes. 

Thankfully, for Rose, he only had a few naysayers. Others aren’t as fortunate – some being eviscerated by keyboard warriors. 

Rose did, however, layout the issues inlaid with the call – something folks should be mad about. 

“To a degree I can understand why some people were upset about that. The stewards at Churchill Downs only threw up the “objection” by other riders, but should’ve thrown up their own “inquiry” sign as well. 

“The stewards dropped the ball in this situation and caused much of this hysteria. The stewards later came out with a press release stating why they disqualified Maximum Security, which made it much clearer as to what happened, but unfortunately too many people became irate by that time.”

And if we of the internet age know anything about timing, it’s that it’s everything. There’s no room for error. Though I’m personally disappointed for Servis and the Maximum Security team, this is one of those things you can’t predict when racing animals. I may not fully understand the nuances of horse racing and the betting that comes along with it, but I do understand betting on animals holds a higher risk of failure and disappointment – and that’s what I’m chalking this up to, a rarity that finally happened.  

I also understand that in a sport that is riddled with black eyes, horse deaths and accusations of wrongdoing, this is the last thing it needs – especially at the most famous race. So, if you’re only mad about losing money on the race, grow up.

Sports Editor

A West Virginia native and 2017 graduate of WVU, Andrew writes about local high school sports from his new home in Charles Town. He also covers Shepherd and his alma mater, while still finding time to rant about the Washington Redskins.

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