LOUISVILLE, KY. — Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott finally got his Kentucky Derby win, but it was under unprecedented circumstances. Country House, who finished third in the Arkansas Derby, behind Omaha Beach and Improbable in his last start, was declared the winner in the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby after a lengthy inquiry that resulted in the disqualification of Maximum Security.
Florida Derby winner Maximum Security took the field wire-to-wire, but was found to have interfered with War of Will and Long Range Toddy. After a 22-minute inquiry, with a crowd of 150,729 on track and millions more watching at home, stewards determined that Maximum Security impeded the pair and took the horse down from first and moved him to 17th place.
“It’s actually, it’s very bittersweet,” said Mott. “I’d be lying if I said it was any different. I would like, you know, you always want to win with a clean trip and have everybody recognize the horse for the very good horse and the great athlete that he is. Due to the disqualification, probably some of that is diminished.”
No horse that finished first in the Kentucky Derby has ever been disqualified on the track. The last time a claim of foul occurred in the Kentucky Derby was in 2001 when jockey John Velazquez, riding 55-1 Invisible Ink, claimed foul against winner Monarchos. The stewards dismissed the claim and the order of finish remained unchanged. The only other similar incidence was in 1968 when Dancer’s Image, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby, was disqualified due to the finding of phenylbutazone in the horse’s system after a post-race urinalysis. That disqualification resulted in extensive litigation that dragged on until 1972. Ultimately, Forward Pass was declared the Kentucky Derby winner and the purse money was redistributed accordingly.
The 65-year-old Mott has more than 45 years of experience as a trainer and has amassed over 4,900 wins in nearly 25,000 starts, eclipsing earnings of $274,367,053. He was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. He’s won multiple Eclipse Awards for outstanding trainer, numerous Breeders’ Cup races and trained multiple horses that went on to be named Eclipse champions, including two-time Champion Older Female Royal Delta and two-time Horse of the Year Cigar.
As many trophies and awards Mott has attained in his long career, the one trophy he had been unable to win was the Kentucky Derby trophy. Mott had his first Kentucky Derby starter in 1984 when Taylor’s Special finished 13th. Over the years, he started another seven runners in the Derby, his most recent being Hofburg, who finished seventh last year. In addition to Country House, he also sent out Wood Memorial winner Tacitus this year, who finished third.
“Being in this position is a very special thing,” said Mott. “My hope was always to come back and run in the Derby and hopefully to get a horse that’s good enough to run in the Derby, but could I have ever imagined winning it? Well, you always hope.”