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BALL FIVE: Mobridge native wins Derby in out-of-ordinary way

On a rainy Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs, Mobridge native Bill Mott won his first Kentucky Derby. It just wasn’t the way he would have preferred.
If you are a one-percenter, that being the number of Americans who have no idea what happened on Saturday, Mott-trained Country House was named the winner of the Kentucky Derby after the original race winner, Maximum Security was disqualified for interfering with a couple of hard-charging horses.
First, of course, it appeared Derby favorite Maximum Security had won a wire to wire race. But then a couple of protests were filed and after a 22-minute wait, Maximum Security was disqualified and runner-up Country House, a 65-1 underdog, was named the winner.
The Kentucky Derby is about a two-minute race. When Maximum Security spooked (apparently) and darted two or three “paths” to the right, he passed right in front of War of Will, who had to pull up and slide sideways to avoid a collision and possible catastrophe. War of Wills, consequently moved in front of Long Range Toddy (trained by Steve Asmussen), who had to pull up and slide sideways. Eventually the sideways movement led to Country House getting pushed out, but the effect was not as bad and not as dangerously as the first two horses.
This all happened in about one second, so out of the 150,000 at Churchill Downs and the millions who were watching a television, only an expert would have noticed the infraction. But noticed it was and what happened next was the longest 22 minutes in Kentucky Derby history. And this is a long history. Saturday was the 145th running of the Derby. Ulysses S. Grant was our president when the first Derby ran.
When it was finally announced that Country House and not Maximum Security was the winner, a round of boos and hisses arose, but I think that the boos came from all the bettors who were not winners anymore and all the hisses came from bettors who had torn up and thrown away their bets on Country House.
Bill Mott is a Hall of Famer and one of the most respected trainers in America and even the world, so it was odd for him to have to win his first Derby title this way and it was odd for the horse racing world to see him have to win it this way.
Mott was quoted as saying he felt terrible for having to apologize for winning. But he also said that this call shows the integrity of the sport. It was not an easy call to make, but it was the right call.
He’s absolutely right, you know. Just because it was the Kentucky Derby does not mean the rules don’t suddenly matter. It is the way things are now. Technology has gotten so good that every infraction is there for even the most casual fan to see and understand. Remember when Major League Baseball started using instant replay. League officials said at the time that they didn’t want to ask too much of replay. They said (for example) if a player is sliding into second base and is called safe but maybe his foot pops off the base by an inch, they would not be changing that call. But, lo and behold, the technology and the HD showed everyone watching that by golly that foot did pop one inch off the base and now when that happens the baserunner is called out.
I’m not horse racing aficionado, in fact I am very far from it, but all I had to do was watch the replay and listen to an explanation of the rules to know that the Derby stewards were doing their job correctly.
While Mott, jockey Flavien Pratt and the Country House’s owners are the big winners here, Maximum Security and his entourage are left confused. Well, not Maximum Security. He doesn’t really care, but from owner to Gary West on down, there is frustration.
While Mott is having a bittersweet time trying to figure out how to celebrate his historic win, West is just bitter.
The man is not happy that the race stewards did the job they are supposed to do. They did it with integrity and they made a correct decision, no matter how out of the ordinary it was.
While the racing world was waiting on the race results, Mott was asked about the filed protests.
He said, and I am paraphrasing here, that if this were some race held on a Wednesday afternoon, it would be an easy call.
After the decision was made, Mott said, “I really didn’t want to win this way. I wish he had pulled away nice and clean and won by five. This is what happened.”
West isn’t being so gracious. He appealed even though there are rules in horse racing that state that when the stewards make their decision it is final and no appeals can be filed. Then he started ranting about how the stewards did not field questions from the press and it was the worst case of no transparency he’s ever witnessed.
Give me a break. The man’s a billionaire. He’s like the 84th richest person in the world. You supposed he used transparency to get where he’s gotten today? The man has the world’s worst case of sour grapes. As rich as he is, get used to it. There are some lawyers who are going to take a lot his money before this is all said and done.
As for Bill Mott, congratulations, keep on winning and keep on being the class act you have been your entire career.