LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In the 145 years they have run the Kentucky Derby, no jockey has won the Run for the Roses the way Flavien Prat did Saturday.
Aboard long-shot Country House, Prat did not live the thrill of crossing the finish line first.
That was done by Luis Saez aboard front-running Maximum Security.
Prat became the winner of the United States’ most prestigious Thoroughbred horse race some 15 minutes after all the horses in the race had ceased running.
In a decision that will be debated as long as there is a Kentucky Derby, race stewards disqualified winner Maximum Security and awarded second-place finisher Country House the winner’s garland of roses.
After Maximum Security led wire to wire, Prat filed a foul claim contending the winner had come out from his racing line in the far turn impeding as many as three horses, including Country House.
After a lengthy review of videotapes, race stewards upheld the foul claim.
Maximum Security, who dominated the race on the track, was dropped from first to 17th.
Country House was moved up from second and became the second-longest shot, sent off at 65-1, to win the Kentucky Derby. Only 1913 Derby winner Donerail, at 91-1, had longer odds.
In horse racing history, there cannot have been a more consequential foul claim than the one Prat lodged.
“I did actually claim foul,” Prat said afterward. “I thought (Maximum Security) had shifted out a lot. We had been slightly bothered in that incident.”
Prat said Maximum Security and Country House never made contact, but that the former’s leaving his racing line created physical contact with War of Will and Long Range Toddy that affected Country House.
“It was the horses between us (that were impacted),” Prat said. “The horse on my inside hit the hips on my horse and turned me sideways around the quarter pole while I was actually making a run. I kind of lose momentum.”
After the foul claim was filed, race stewards studied video of the race for around 15 minutes.
When the decision was finally made to uphold the foul claim, the Churchill Downs crowd of 150,729 booed lustily.
The controversial finish capped a spring of emotional swings for Prat, 26.
Prat rode Omaha Beach, who began last week slated to be the Kentucky Derby favorite, in the horse’s first five starts. In March, Prat chose to ride trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Gaililean in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn and gave up the ride on Omaha Beach.
That looked like one of the worst decisions made by a jockey as Omaha Beach came to Louisville as the Derby favorite.
Omaha Beach, however, had to be scratched on Wednesday due to a minor respiratory issue.
Prat wound up in the Derby, riding a long shot for veteran trainer Bill Mott.
As a little boy growing up in France, Prat said the Breeders’ Cup races were more on his radar than the Kentucky Derby.
After he came to the United States from his home country to ride in 2014, Prat said his first time attending the Derby and watching from the grandstands led to his falling in love with the race.
“It became my dream,” he said.
In 2017, Prat finished third aboard Battle of Midway in his first Kentucky Derby. Last year, he was 10th on Solomini.
As the 2019 Derby drew near, Prat began last week fearful he would be remembered as the guy who gave up the ride on the likely Kentucky Derby winner.
By Saturday night, Prat was the winning jockey in the most controversial ending in the 145-year history of the Run for the Roses.
“It’s been really emotional,” Prat said of his spring. “I was riding Omaha Beach. Well, it turned out that I made a wrong choice (in giving him up). But, at the end, it turns out great, actually.”
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