Maximum Security

Maximum Security is held by an outrider during the stewards' inquiry after the Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- I feel bad for Maximum Security. I know, he doesn’t read the papers. The FBI didn’t interview him as part of its recent doping investigation.

Still, this is a hard-luck story if ever there was one. Here’s a colt who came out of nowhere. And yes, maybe he came out of nowhere because he was running on rocket fuel when everybody else was running on oats, but that’s not the colt’s decision.

If FBI documents and wiretaps are to be believed, trainer Jason Servis was loading up his stable, including Maximum Security, with a performance-enhancing drug that promoted tissue repair and increased a horse’s stamina beyond its natural capacity.

Maximum Security, who crushed the competition on his way to last year’s Kentucky Derby, would’ve been an impressive winner in that race had he not veered out into the path of others in the home stretch.

Who is to say whether he would’ve done anything close to that, or whether he would’ve even been in the race, had he not been given illegal and untraceable substances that ostensibly helped him perform better.

His story did seem too good to be true, in retrospect. His first win was in a claiming race, the peddler’s mall of horse racing. Anybody could’ve had him that day for $16,000, and if he had been claimed, maybe he wouldn’t have come out of nowhere. Maybe he’d still be nowhere. There’s no way to know.

Instead, he kept winning, and winning big.

And here we are. He’s a part of the sport’s history. The first colt ever disqualified on the track at the Kentucky Derby. His jockey, Luis Saez, was suspended for reckless riding in the race. His owner, Gary West, sued to have the on-track result restored. And now Servis is facing 5 years in jail for his alleged actions.

What now? West moved Maximum Security to the barn of Bob Baffert. Last week, the horse was taken to veterinarian Gary Bramlage, who saw some minor wear in his joints, but “nothing seriously wrong.”

Thank goodness, given how hard he has run, in 10 career races, on a substance that can and has allowed horses to run so hard that they broke down, broke bones or suffered heart attacks.

He still has his health. At least there’s that. And it’s no small thing. And now he’ll get an extended period out of training, which should help his minor joint issues, according to Bramlage.

We may or may not ever see him again on a racetrack. Maybe he’ll still fetch a decent price as a stallion for somebody.

For a brief moment, on a rain-soaked track in Louisville last May, he was a glorious story of horse racing victory. In a sport based on bloodlines, he had overcome humble beginnings to reach the pinnacle.

Then it was taken away.

Today, he stands as another historic figure in the game. He symbolizes the doping scandal that the sport must fix, everything that is wrong with the game, and everything it must correct if it is to remain viable. He won eight out of 10 career races, finished second in the other and won but was disqualified the only time he was out of the money. None of it, though, was real.

That stain on his legacy isn’t his fault. It’s the fault of the humans who trained him and the ones who run his sport.

No horse deserves that, claimer or champion.

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