SNIDER: Maximum Security won’t, but should, enter Preakness

Rick Snider
May 06, 2019 - 10:47 am
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Gary West has become the sore loser of thoroughbred racing.

The owner of Maximum Security told NBC’s “The Today Show” the colt will skip the Preakness Stakes on May 18 after being the first Kentucky Derby winner to be disqualified. The controversial move for the colt supposedly interfering with other runners when veering out in the stretch has West now appealing a decision that surely will reach federal court.

West said the Preakness has no value given the Derby loss. He can’t win the Triple Crown, so why bother? But if you’re appealing to the Kentucky racing commission and likely further legal avenues, then you’re expecting the disqualification to be overturned and named Derby champion once more. And that means the Preakness and Belmont Stakes are relevant. Maximum Security could still be a Triple Crown champion, albeit by the courts.

West is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He’s not coming to the Preakness over fear of losing again. The colt was 4-0 entering the Derby, and that victory would have meant millions in stud fees, which is one reason why West is appealing. But win the Preakness and Belmont, and Maximum Security would still be viewed as a Triple Crown champion even if the DQ holds up. And that means millions of dollars more in the breeding shed.

West is a telecom and health care billionaire who has owned a fistful of stakes winners over more than 30 years. He doesn’t need the money, but Maximum Security would provide West his biggest racing legacy. But nobody will respect the colt come year-end awards voting if he ducks the Preakness.

It was simply bad luck when Maximum Security was spooked by crowd noise and veered away from the infield rail. That’s why earplugs and blinders are worn by young thoroughbreds. A roar by 150,000 when entering the stretch sounds like cannon fire to colts.

The irony is Maximum Security is perfect for Pimlico’s sharper turns and the Preakness’ shorter 1 3/16th mile race, which is 1/16th mile shorter than the Derby. He could whistle the field and not look back if healthy. West cited the two-week turnaround as too soon for the colt. Well, it wasn’t too soon for Justify last year when winning the Triple Crown, nor American Pharoah’s 2015 sweep.

West still has until May 15 to enter the Preakness. When emotions calm down, he should reconsider and enter Maximum Security in the race. Otherwise, this just looks like rage against the dying of the light.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.