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Washington Post_Maximum Security, right, should be declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby, the horse's owners say in a lawsuit. (Matt Slocum)

Seton Hall Law and the Run for the Roses


The racing world was jolted when, for the first time in its 145-year history, the apparent winner of the Kentucky Derby, held on May 4, 2019, was disqualified for a foul during the running of the race. Maximum Security dropped to 17th place after stewards concluded he interfered with other horses. Apparent second-place finisher Country House was declared the official winner, taking home the coveted title and the winner’s purse.

A new lawsuit, filed on May 14 in federal court in Kentucky on behalf of Maximum Security’s owners by Dean Emeritus Ronald J. Riccio and Adjunct Professor Dennis Drazin, seeks to reverse that reversal and restore the Derby roses to Maximum Security. Against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, the suit claims that the disqualification process was “‘bizarre and unconstitutional,” that the stewards’ decision was not supported by “substantial evidence on the whole record,” and that there were a large number of errors in the process leading to the disqualification.

Maximum Security’s owners had already appealed the decision two days after the Kentucky Derby but the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission called the stewards’ decision “final” and denied the appeal. The new lawsuit challenges that conclusion.

Almost a year ago to the day, the Supreme Court decided to make sports betting legal in a landmark decision in which Dean Riccio was lead counsel for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.