LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Moments after Maximum Security's name was taken off the Churchill Downs big screen — and a few minutes after the 3-year-old colt crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby — his trainer, Jason Servis, stood in the mud and the muck with a look of shock on his face.
To win the Kentucky Derby and then have it taken away?
"Yeah, that's tough," he said. "It hasn't hit me yet, but it will."
Maximum Security broke well out of the starting gate and led the Derby field down the backstretch and into the final turn, something that was fully expected of front-running colt.
Then the unexpected happened.
As the field turned back toward the Churchill Downs grandstand — and into view of the massive crowd it contained — Maximum Security drifted out and into the path of War of Will, who had to check hard. Country House was coming up on the outside of those horses and had to go even farther wide entering the stretch.
From there, Maximum Security outran Country House, beating the 65-1 shot to the wire by about two lengths.
The celebration among Maximum Security's connections was on. Servis said his cell phone was flooded with text messages and calls. Several minutes later, his phone was buzzing again.
"Now they're all texting me back: 'Sorry. Sorry.' "
Churchill Downs stewards determined that Maximum Security's move in the final turn impeded the progress of several horses, and he was placed 17th in the field of 19.
Servis, whose only previous Derby starter was an 11th-place finish with Firenze Fire last year, said he wanted to watch this race back before forming a full opinion on the decision.
"The only thing I saw was he dropped out a little," Servis said. "With the crowd and stuff — it's hard to say. He saw something and got scared. But I didn't get to see it that well."
Maximum Security, the only undefeated horse in the race, had only four previous starts and didn't make his racing debut until Dec. 20. He was also a May 14 foal, meaning he doesn't technically turn 3 years old until later this month, and had only one previous start around two turns: his romp in the Florida Derby on March 30.
About 30 minutes after the race ended, Servis was waiting to talk to Maximum Security's owners, Gary and Mary West. "Right now, I'm kind of OK," he said. "But I'm sure tomorrow I might not be."