Flavien Prat won his first Kentucky Derby yesterday in historic fashion.

In a tale right out of a Marx Brothers’ movie, the 26-year-old Frenchman crossed the wire second but after a lengthy review following his claim of foul against Maximum Security, who hit the wire first by 1 ¾ lengths, stewards disqualified him and moved Country House, ridden by Prat, into first.

It was the first disqualification of a horse that crossed the wire first in 145 runnings of the Run for the Roses.

“There were only three horses still open to ride when I hustled trainer Bill Mott for the mount on Country House,” explained Prat’s 65-year-old agent, Derek Lawson, who has been in the business more than 35 years.

Told he’s paid his dues, Lawson sloughed it off with, “A lot of guys have, but I worked my way up. Flavien is the best rider I’ve ever worked with.

“He didn’t care which horse we rode as long as he was in the Derby, but we only got the mount about four days before entries were taken (on April 30).”

From the winner’s purse of $1,860,000, Prat’s share is $186,000, 25 percent of which–$45,000–goes to Lawson.

As far as pre-race instructions, Lawson said, “We met with Mott Friday before the race and he said he expected the horse to be at the tail of the field and coming running late.  But when the gates opened, the horse broke well and put Flavien right in the race, so that changed everything. Then it was up to him. There were no specific instructions.”

Prat and Lawson both were optimistic during the stewards’ viewing of the reruns, timed by one account to be 23 minutes.

“It was fun for us,” said Lawson, who was in the winner’s circle area with Prat during the review. “We were going to be second one way or the other, and there was a chance we were going to win. We were joking about it, and he said, “Can you believe they’re taking this long? This is the best thing for us, because they are taking so long.

“You want to ride the winner across the wire, but there are rules in racing. We’ve been taken down when we won easily, so we know the back and forth on this. That’s part of the racing rules. It happens all the time. It’s part of the game.

“We didn’t celebrate too much last night. We went to Julien Leparoux and Florent Geroux’s neighborhood in one of their neighbor’s houses just outside of Louisville, opened a bottle of champagne and stayed awake until about 2 o’clock in the morning.

“Then we drove to the airport and got a 7 o’clock flight from Kentucky back to LA. Mike Smith and Drayden Van Dyke were on the plane with us and we got in here at 9 o’clock. As Flavien was walking through the airport people were congratulating him because he had this great big bouquet of roses he was carrying.

“Everyone was super-nice; a lot of women came over and wanted to have their picture taken with him. When he got off the plane this morning at LAX, everybody greeted him with a round of applause.”

And justifiably so.


From President Trump on down, mainstream controversy reigned in the aftermath of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, a race that will live in infamy because of the disqualification from first to last of Maximum Security, the only time it ever happened in 145 runnings of the world’s most famous horse race.

“The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby,” Trump tweeted, attributing the DQ to “political correctness.”

There was no gray area. It was either yea or nay at Santa Anita’s Clockers’ Corner Sunday morning, those in support of the stewards’ disqualification of Maximum Security, the 9-2 second choice in the Derby who crossed the wire nearly two lengths in front, or those who were steadfast in maintaining the horse’s number should not have come down.

After scrutinizing replays for an interminably long 23 minutes, Maximum Security was disqualified for veering out sharply nearing the quarter-mile marker, moving the longest-shot in the race, Country House at 65-1, into first under Santa Anita’s leading jockey, Flavien Prat.

“It was a bad call,” said three-time Kentucky Derby winner Victor Espinoza, who swept the Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah.

“If the horse had been trained by Dale Romans or Bob Baffert, it wouldn’t have come down,” said one source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“I’m glad the stewards had to make that decision and not me,” said John Shirreffs, trainer of Giacomo, who won the 2005 Kentucky Derby at odds of 50-1.

Conversely, there were those in support of the disqualification, none more so than trainer David Bernstein, who experienced perhaps the most controversial reversal in Santa Anita’s storied history of more than eight decades when The Wicked North was moved from first to fourth in the 1994 Santa Anita Handicap, then offering a purse of $1 million.

Now 79, down to three horses “and lucky to have those,” Bernstein remains one of the most respected horsemen in California and assuredly among the most eloquent.

“I thought it was well-deserved,” Bernstein said of the Derby decision. “I really believe that outside of the grace of God we’d have had a horrible spill in the Derby, because that horse (War of Will) almost clipped heels when you see it in slow motion, and the other horses would have fallen over him. It would have been terrible. But I feel as bad for Jason Servis (trainer of Maximum Security) as I did for myself.

“Yes, Maximum Security did come out, was green, doesn’t know how to run yet and kind of got away from the rider. Prat was in the right place at the right time and got moved up.

“It was just like when they gave Stuka the Handicap over me; he was out in the middle of the track and Laffit (Pincay Jr.) was just riding him to get what he could get.

“But I was glad there was no accident yesterday because it certainly was a bad place to have that happen. No question it was controversial, because if a horse had clipped heels and gone down, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It would have been obvious.

“But now there’s a lot of speculation and conjecture, plus questions about how political it might have been, and how about the bettors who bet on Maximum Security? They took him clear out of the money.

“At least I got fourth with The Wicked North, but from a million dollar purse, with $550,000 to the winner, I got $75,000. You talk about a kick in the teeth. When we went to dinner that night at The Derby Restaurant, the owners felt so bad for us they picked up the tab for the entire party.”

But pro or con, safe to say the 2019 Kentucky Derby will be remembered in the same breath as both one of the most memorable and one of the most forgettable.


With a festive Kentucky Derby Day crowd of 21,450 on hand for mint juleps and tremendous racing, Santa Anita’s popular 20 cent Single Ticket Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot went unsolved Saturday, resulting in a Jackpot carryover of $356,332 into Sunday.

With $185,732 in “new” money wagered, Saturday’s total Rainbow Six Jackpot pool reached $499,540, and although there was no Single Ticket winner, there were 40 consolation tickets with six, each worth $2,496.80.

With a nine-race card on tap today, the Rainbow Six begins with race four, which has an approximate post time of 2:31 p.m. PT.


Bill Mott  discusses Country House. 5-05-19

Shug McGaughey discusses Code of Honor after his runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby. 5-05-19

Mark Casse discussed War of Will following his game effort in the Kentucky Derby. 5-05-19

XBTV Sunday: What to Watch for at Santa Anita Park on May 5th, 2019

Boa Nova worked 3 furlongs (Meah) 5-04-19

Gift Box worked 5 furlongs  (Sadler) 5-04-19

An Eddie Suprise worked 4 furlongs (O’Neill) 5-04-19

Blended Citizen worked 3 furlongs (O’Neill) 5-03-19

worked 5 furlongs (Sadler) 5-03-19

Caribou Club worked 4 furlongs (Proctor) 5-03-19

FINISH LINES: Bargain claim  Ohio, who upset favored  Catapult by a desperate nose in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile March 30, worked four furlongs Saturday in 49.80, after which trainer Michael McCarthy pronounced him at the ready for the Grade I Shoemaker Mile on turf May 27, Memorial Day. The Shoemaker is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event giving the victor a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 2. McCarthy also worked John Henry Turf Championship winner  Liam the Charmer five furlongs in 1:02.20 but presently had no race written in stone for the grass marathoner . . . Also working Saturday was Santa Anita Handicap winner  Gift Box for John Sadler, going five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.60 for the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita on Memorial Day . . .  Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Monday through Thursday, with live action resuming at 1 p.m. Friday, May 10. Simulcast racing is offered Wednesday and Thursday with free general admission and free parking. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.