Kentucky Derby weekend sparks memories of big upsets

Maximum Security (R) appeared to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby before he was disqualified and the win given to Country House (C) on May 4 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. File Photo by Mark Abraham/UPI
1 of 5 | Maximum Security (R) appeared to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby before he was disqualified and the win given to Country House (C) on May 4 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. File Photo by Mark Abraham/UPI
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May 1 (UPI) -- This weekend marks the first time since World War II that the Kentucky Derby will be postponed, leaving fans with memories of last year's peculiar finish -- and a chapter of other unexpected victories in the history of the Run for the Roses.

Fans waited 22 minutes after the 2019 finish to learn which horse won the 2019 Derby as the judges investigated a claim of foul. The first horse to cross the finish line, Maximum Security, was disqualified, and second-place Country House, a longshot, was declared the champion.


Country House went off at 65-1 and a $2 win bet paid $132.40. Maximum Security was placed 17th.

This year's 146th Derby had been planned, as usual, for the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., before the coronavirus pandemic closed stables. The race has been rescheduled for Sept. 5, with the expectation that fans will be in the stands.


Country House's victory last year ended a streak of six consecutive wins for favorites at the Derby. But before that, the favorites had been 0-for-20 in crossing the finish line first.

Several jockeys have beaten the odds and won since the Derby was last postponed in 1945. Here is a look back at some of those unexpected victories.

2019: Country House

Jockey Flavien Prat rode his longshot over the finish line behind first-place finisher Maximum Security -- before an unprecedented scene unfolded last year in Louisville.

The favored colt had swerved into the path of the field at the top of the backstretch and impeded War of Will to attain the victory.

Judges deliberated for nearly a half hour before they disqualified Maximum Security and gave Country House the $1.86 million purse. The result marked the first time in Derby history that the horse crossing the finish line first didn't win.

"Churchill Downs -- because they're a greedy organization -- has [20 horses in the race] rather than 14 like you have in the Kentucky Oaks, the Breeders' Cup and every other race in America," Maximum Security owner Gary West told The Today Show in May 2019.


"Just because they can make more money, they're willing to risk horses lives and people's lives to do that. I'm not a fan of that," West said.

Not long after the race, Country House suffered leg ailments in June and a right front lower leg infection soon after.

He was treated successfully, and Guinness McFadden's Blackwood Stables in Kentucky has announced that he appears to be recovering fully. The 4-year-old won't race again, however.

2005: Giacomo

Bellamy Road and Afleet Alex were favorites to win the 2005 Derby, but 50-1 longshot Giacomo won the race. Closing Argument -- another longshot -- and Afleet Alex battled in a two-horse duel before Giacomo forced a photo finish. Jockey Mike Smith helped his horse edge Closing Argument by 1/2 length. Smith had been 0 for 11 in his previous Derby attempts.

"I just knew he was going to run well," Smith told NBC. "Where that put us, I wasn't sure. But I knew he was going to run that kind of race. He trained that way. He acted that way. I was really focused. I didn't really pay attention to what was going on around me."


2009: Mine That Bird

A muddy track awaited jockeys once again at the 2009 Run for the Roses. Pioneerof the Nile and Dunkirk had odds of 4-1 each as race favorites, but 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird won.

Mine That Bird trailed the field for most of the race as Pioneerof the Nile raced toward the front. Jockey Calvin Borel's horse got a late burst of energy, weaved through traffic and knifed through a paper-thin gap while he hugged the inside wall of the track to crush the field by 6 3/4 lengths.

"I was pretty far back," Borel said of his start at the 2009 Derby. "I must have been 15 or 20 lengths behind, [but] I had a lot of horse."

Mine That Bird was purchased for $9,500, an extreme bargain in the horse racing world.

1953: Dark Star

Alfred G. Vanderbilt's horse, Native Dancer, entered the 79th Derby with an 11-race win streak. Dark Star -- a 24-1 longshot -- bolted to an early lead as Native Dancer was roughed up in the field.

Dark Star held the lead before Native Dancer raced toward the front to contend. But the favored colt couldn't close before the finish line, and Dark Star won by a head.


"I planned to lay third [place] behind Correspondent and Native Dancer, but I had so much horse under me that I soon changed my mind," Dark Star jockey Hank Moreno told The New York Times.

1967: Proud Clarion

Jockey Bobby Ussery's Proud Clarion was a 30-1 longshot to win the 1967 Derby. Damascus was a 2-1 prerace favorite with six wins in his previous eight starts. Proud Clarion dug through the mud and galloped from eighth to fifth place before he climbed behind leader Barbs Delight. Ussery then propelled Proud Clarion into the lead and a one-length win to claim a $162,000 prize.

"I was more or less following Damascus," Ussery told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "I didn't think Damascus would flatten out like he did. But -- whoosh -- we went right on by."

The Kentucky Derby through the years

Steve Buttleman plays the traditional "Call to the Post," signaling the approaching start of the 126th Kentucky Derby on May 6, 2000. Photo by Frank Polich/UPI | License Photo

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