The pomp and circumstance surrounding the Kentucky Derby has always been unmatched. The pageantry, the mint julips, the history, the fascinators — it’s all a rich tapestry of wealth and tradition.
Much to my surprise, there was about six hours of pregame programming on NBC leading up to the Run for the Roses. One-quarter of a day’s worth of useless information, manufactured storylines and interviews with celebrities who all looked like they just wanted to be left alone.
There was so much hype leading up to a race for a sport most people watching know nothing about.
Then in literally the fastest two minutes in sports the Kentucky Derby was over. After all of those trifectas and exactas and overpriced drinks and bad hats, it was done. Maximum Security had won horseracing’s Super Bowl.
Except that magnificent beast didn’t win.
Some obscure rule about some minor violation only an incredibly low percentage of the population are aware of led to a reshuffling of the Winner’s Circle and a horse named Country House was crowned the champion. Of course, it took a trio of Derby stewards about 30 minutes to decide Maximum Security has committed a foul and thus been denied the title. I guess it’s fitting an equine with such a boring name as “Country House” would win after an excruciatingly drawn out review process.
Die-hard Derby enthusiasts will say disqualifying Maximum Security was the correct call by the stewards. I certainly won’t pretend to know if that assessment is correct. The only horseriding I know about is the “lil-horsey-down-to-town” variety I give my 2-year-old on my knee. All I know is most people watch the sport only two or three times a year and an ending of that nature is no way to draw in more fans.
I could understand overturning a victory if a horse was illegally, chemically enhanced or wore Nikes in lieu of horseshoes, but it was drifting out of the horse’s imaginary lane enough for disqualification? I mean, they are just horses, guys.
And about those stewards — did you see their replay booth? It looked more like a deserted mall’s security room than a replay booth worthy of the extravagant Churchill Downs.
If memory serves, it was about a 15-by-15 room with three reviewers. There were four monitors — one of which appeared to not be working — and a random assortment of stuff you probably have in your pantry right now like a half-used roll of paper towels and a jar of honey-roasted peanuts (I am not kidding). Maybe those three people are the “best in biz” when it comes to horse-racing reviews, but their surroundings didn’t reflect that.
Regardless of your position on the rule and the race eventual champion, surely we can all agree that a near half-hour review is at best excessive and definitely boring. The whole ordeal put a wet blanket on an already damp day. Like all of the replays in all of the sports, it seems the more we try to get very little call correct the more we sap the fun and enthusiasm out of the game.