THE WRONG CALL

Kentucky Derby DQ is a bad look for a struggling sport

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Saturday's Kentucky Derby will not be remembered for being a great race, or a horse that did something spectacular.

It will be remembered for a controversial disqualification that not only changed the outcome but also stained America's greatest horse race.

Maximum Security finished first but was disqualified and Country House was gifted the win. Maximum Security was placed 17th, while Code of Honor was placed second and Tacitus third.

Maximum Security was gritty, leading all the way and fighting off several challengers along the way. But the problem came near the top of the stretch, where he drifted out, impeding War of Will and Long Range Toddy slightly. The stewards judged it to be serious enough to warrant the first disqualification for interference in the history of the Derby.

Quite simply, it was a bad call.

Did he interfere? Yes. Did it change the outcome of the race? No. And that should always be the standard. You could argue Long Range Toddy came in as well to help sandwich War of Will. While War of Will did slow down, he had ample opportunity to win after that. He just was not good enough.

The chief steward issued a long and rambling statement that defended their actions. She did not answer questions. Transparency be damned.

The decision put a horse that was not impacted and in fact outrun by the winner in the stretch up to first. He was not close to being the best horse in the race.


Poor decision

The Kentucky Derby is roughly run every year. Much like you can call holding on every play in the NFL, you could DQ a horse each year in the Derby. A 20-horse field (19) this year is never going to get you a clean race.

So why this one?

The official stance from Chief State Steward Barbara Borden.: "We had a lengthy review of the race, we interviewed affected riders and we determined the 7 horse (Maximum Security) drifted out and impacted the progress of No. 1 (War of Will), in turn interfering with the 18 (Long Range Todd) and 21 (Bodexpress). Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference, and therefore we unanimously determined to disqualify No. 7 and place him behind No. 18."

The second, third and fourth place finishers were not impacted at all. That three stewards determined it changed the outcome is somewhat bizarre.

The big problem is what is a disqualification in Kentucky might not be one in California or New York. Each jurisdiction is different and consistency is right out the window. In 2014, a horse called Bayern took out half the field at the start of the Breeders' Cup Classic. It was much more egregious than this. Yet no DQ. As a fan, how are we supposed to know what is a foul and what is not? Things like this are driving people like me from the sport.

In 30-plus years covering the sport, I have seen countless DQs. Some helped me. Some hurt. This one actually benefitted me since I had a show bet on Tacitus. But I would rather they get it right. Racing has been taking hits for years, and this year's deaths at Santa Anita have contributed. To add on a controversial decision in the biggest race? It's a bad look. We should be talking about Maximum Security as a potential Triple Crown winner. Instead we are talking about a human decision.

And a bad one.

Looking ahead

The Preakness will be in two weeks, and one thing we can probably count on is the "winner" will not be the favorite in Baltimore. The field is far from set, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Of the horses we liked, Tacitus was a solid third, and with a little more room could have been right there. Game Winner was way too far back early, made a wide late run but did not have enough left. If he runs in Baltimore, expect a better effort.

Hopefully the Preakness will give us a fair race, decided on the track.

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Another tough loss for Houston. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans remain winless as the team comes up short against the Bears in Chicago. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Davis Mills made two costly mistakes with interceptions. The first one took points off the board and the second allowed the Bears to kick a game-winning field goal. These were the first two of the season and they highlight the need for near perfection from the offense.

2. Davis Mills claimed he made the correct read on the second interception. He said the tip is the reason the Bears intercepted it. I disagree. It looks like Roquan Smith read it like a book and might have been there anyway.

3. The other interception from Davis Mills wasn’t a good read either. Mills made a quick decision and rifled the ball to Brandin Cooks but the defensive back basically had his whole body between Cooks and the ball. The Bears made a nice play to come down with the deflection.

4. Davis Mills is not to be trusted in moments where most quarterbacks can move the football. The Texans failed to get into field goal range at the end of both halves. Mills has consistently failed in those spots this season.

5. There were some curious calls from Pep Hamilton. The Texans don’t have much talent, but Hamilton has had some unique moments. There was a screen to Pharaoh Brown on third and long. The team called a screen on third and one. There was a telegraph on third and short in the red zone.

6. Why can’t this team get the wideouts more heavily involved? Rex Burkhead shouldn’t be getting the second greatest number of targets. Brandin Cooks shouldn’t leave a game where he has less than 10 targets. It would be worth scheming the ball to Cooks a few more times than he is currently getting the ball.

7. Kamu Grugier-Hill is not playing well right now. The veteran just bounced right off a Bears running back at one point. He is also a liability in coverage. Christian Harris is hopefully back after next week but it would be worth seeing if Garrett Wallow has anything more to his game than the veteran.

8. The rushing defense was assaulted again. This time by running wideouts and a backup running back. Lovie Smith needs to look at playing time and the depth chart to see if something can get corrected here. This can’t keep happening earlier and earlier in games each week.

9. Jerry Hughes has been one of the best players on this team through three games. The veteran has been consistent and flashed more than a few times. A nice addition by the team this offseason.

10. Jalen Pitre is so damn good. He’s already one of the best players on this team. He had two interceptions today to go along with a sack. He wasn’t fooled on play action and nailed Justin Fields for the sack. When it felt like the Bears were getting whatever they wanted, Pitre darted in for a tackle in the backfield. He’s been awesome.

11. There must be some evaluation from the Texans. The team might need to ask if everything they’ve put together at this point is the right direction. There is a sound argument the team should be 3-0. Instead, the team is winless, and closing in on hopelessness

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