War of Will camp denies causing Kentucky Derby interference

May 07, 2019 07:00pm

Trainer Mark Casse has watched the events that unfolded in the far turn of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby “time after time after time.” So has owner Gary West, whose Maximum Security was disqualified after veering out near the 5/16ths pole at Churchill Downs.

Casse’s contender became a more prominent part of the conversation when West based a since-denied state racing commission appeal of the stewards' decision — and pending lawsuit — on War of Will’s actions.

The two parties have agreed to disagree on War of Will's role in Country House being named the Derby winner.

Maximum Security’s camp argues that before the colt veered out, resulting in disqualification from first to 17th, War of Will ran up too close behind, perhaps enough to clip heels and cause the move.

RELATED: New video key to West's case

It’s Casse’s stance, however, that War of Will, full of run, positioned behind Maximum Security as the leader shifted in and out before he veered.

“Have you ever driven behind a drunk driver, and you can’t figure out which direction they’re gonna go?” Casse said. “That’s what happened.”

Casse points to a 10-second portion of the race as the leaders passed the half-mile pole. A visible water line in the sealed, sloppy track sits a consistent margin from the rail, providing a steady guide of sorts.

“He’s inside, he goes outside, he goes back inside, and he goes back outside,” Casse said of the water line. “It reminds me when we used to drive go karts when I was 10 and 12. Whoever was in front would just go back and forth so nobody could pass.

“Everybody was so focused on the main event that they didn’t see he did a similar thing going into the turn. The first one was a little race riding and lack of control, and I think the main event was caused from him shying.”

When Maximum Security’s connections reviewed NBC footage of the race, they concluded War of Will contacted and disturbed their colt's stride, leading to the veer and ultimately costing a Derby victory.

Casse said after the race he was happy just to have a happy horses and jockey Tyler Gaffalione.

“But then when people want to take shots at us, now you’re going to get fire,” Casse said. “I have directed some fire.

“…Now you’re messing my kids. You’re messing with War of Will, and you’re messing with Tyler, who I adore. I just think he’s a great rider. When you start throwing stuff at those two, I’m not going to sit still.”
In a statement Tuesday to Horse Racing Nation, War of Will’s owner, Gary Barber, said he learned of West’s stance on the matter from his interview the previous night on Fox News.

“I categorically deny this false accusation,” Barber said. “The video evidence irrefutably shows that his horse Maximum Security caused a major infraction that almost led to a catastrophe, and in so doing denied my horse and others of a better placing. The facts are Maximum Security is a great horse that crossed the line first in the Derby, but unfortunately committed a major infraction that denied him a Derby victory.

“I empathize with Mr. West on this fact and feel the pain of losing out, but Mr. West’s horse, and not mine nor my jockey Tyler Gaffalione, denied him the Derby victory, and it is wrong for him to deflect blame anywhere else. I am very disappointed that War of Will was deprived of the opportunity to show his best because of Maximum Security, but I painfully accepted that as part of horse racing.

“Thankfully, I am glad both War of Will and Maximum Security survived the day unscathed and will be good to race another day!”

War of Will is a candidate for the May 18 Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, while Maximum Security is tentatively pointing to the July 20 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park.


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