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West on Today: Churchill `Greedy,’ No Preakness, We’ll Appeal

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The Derby finish | Horsephotos

By Sue Finley

Gary West made several revelations on the Today Show this morning in a live appearance shortly after 7:30 Eastern Daylight Time, among them: Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) will not run in the Preakness, he will file an appeal today with the Kentucky State Racing Commission, and that he feels Churchill Downs is `greedy’ to allow 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby, which he said put horses’ and jockeys’ lives at risk.

West, appearing from his home in Rancho Santa Fe, California, said the experience was, “literally like the old t.v. show–the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat all in a 22-minute period of time. Winning it was the most probably euphoric thing I have ever had in our lives, and disappointment when they took the horse down for the first time in history. We were stunned, shocked and in total and complete disbelief. It had never been done before.”

West said that trainer Jason Servis, at West’s request, asked the stewards for a meeting after the race, but was rebuffed.

“We are going to file an appeal today with the State Racing Commission,” said West. “Right after the race, I had the trainer call the stewards and very nicely ask them if they would be willing to visit with us after the races were over. We said we’d well stay here til 11, 12:00 at night–whatever you want. They said, `absolutely not. We won’t be showing the films until Thursday.’ So we did not have any alternative legally. The appeal has to be filed within 48 hours, so we’ll be filing that today.”

West was questioned by host Craig Melvin, who pointed out that in Kentucky, rules state that stewards’ decisions are final. West argued that the magnitude of the event made him want to persevere.

“Obviously, we can’t appeal to the stewards who made the decision, if the state racing commission refuses to hear about it. I think that this is something that is big enough and the entire racing world is looking at this and I think they deserve an opportunity to know what was going on. I was a bit shocked and surprised that the stewards wrote a statement that was probably prepared by their lawyers and refused–literally refused–to take a single question from the media. So they’ve been about as non-transparent about this whole thing as anything I’ve seen in my entire life.”

Melvin asked West if he saw Maximum Security make contact with War Of Will (War Front).

“I obviously saw the horse move out, but in the Kentucky Derby where you’ve got 20 horses–and you shouldn’t have 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “Churchill Downs because they’re a greedy organization–has (20) rather than 14 like you have in the Kentucky Oaks, the Breeders’ Cup, and every other race in America. Just because they can make more money they’re willing to risk horses lives and people’s lives to do that. I’m not a fan of that. I think they should have 14 like every other race. But, yes, I saw the horse move out. (In) every Kentucky Derby you could set down two or three horses or four horses if you wanted to because it’s like a rodeo out there.”

Host Savannah Guthrie persisted. “The rules are the rules. The situation at the Derby with 19 or 20 horses is the situation. Isn’t the judges decision essentially correct, even if you don’t like it?”

“That is a way of looking at it,” said West, and then questioned why the stewards hadn’t posted an inquiry themselves. “The thing that is mystifying to me to me is that the stewards were either looking at it with a high-definition television or with binoculars. Our horse was in the lead the entire way around. They looked at exactly what the whole rest of the world looked at and they didn’t file a stewards inquiry. I can’t imagine that it was very obvious to them, either.”

West concluded by announcing that Maximum Security would not run in the Preakness. “No,” he said, “We’re not going to run in the Preakness. There’s no Triple Crown on the line for us, and there’s no reason to run a horse back in two weeks when you don’t have to.”

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