About That Kentucky Derby

The debate rages on — a 65 to1 horse was declared the winner after the physical winner was disqualified. Here’s the rule:

“A leading horse when clear is entitled to any part of the track,” the rule states. “Except in a straight-away racing, every horse must maintain position as nearly as possible in the lane in which it starts. If a leading horse, or any other horse in a race, swerves or is ridden to either side so as to interfere with or intimidate or impede any other horse or jockey, or to cause same, it is a foul; if a jockey strikes another horse or jockey, it is a foul. If in the opinion of the stewards, a foul alters the finish of a race, any offending horses may be disqualified by the stewards.”

The rule exists to prevent jockeys, as they did in the movie, “Seabiscuit,” from riding so as to deliberately impede their competitors. Rather than take a tumble, their competitors slow down, back off, and save themselves and their horses.

The rule, as being interpreted by media commentators and Derby competitors, is that Maximum Security drifted, and the story ends. But, the rule also reads “so as to interfere with intimidate or impede.” Thus, there is some intent implied in the rule.

The stewards, in announcing a 3-0 decision, offered this explanation:

“We determined that the 7 horse [Maximum Security] drifted out and impacted the progress of No. 1 [War of Will], in turn interfering with the 18 [Long Range Toddy] and 21 [Bodexpress].Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference.”

True enough, but impediment is only part of the rule. There remains “alters the finish,” and that pesky language of “swerves or is ridden to either side so as to interfere….etc”. Alters the finish? Country House was not impeded, and the other horses were not going to beat either Country House or Maximum Security. And Maxiumum Security’s jockey, Luis Saez, explained what happened on that muddy track on that rainy Saturday that his horse is a “baby” and the cheering crowd startled him into veering. The horse and the muck seemed to make it difficult for Saez to control the horse. Devious jockey swerving his way to a victory did not fit as a narrative.

No matter how you look at it: (1)The stewards were right to disqualify Maximum Security, because rules are rules. Or, (2) Maximum Security was robbed, because it was a matter of coping on a messy track, Kentucky we have a problem. The race gets an asterisk, Country House gets an asterisk, and we all have to wait for the Preakness and Belmont to see which horse has it. But, those outcomes will be followed by more asterisks, particularly if Maximum Security or Country House wins those two. A triple Crown with asterisks for one, and two victories followed by commentary on being robbed of the Triple Crown for the other. Like the track that historical day at the Derby, we have a mess.

UPDATE: Maximum Security’s owner has appealed the Derby decision and withdrawn from the Preakness. The asterisks will still remain.
UPDATE DOS: Country House also scratched from the Preakness. Appeal denied. Lawsuit pending.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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