The Hustle

The controversial Kentucky Derby finale created chaos for gamblers

The controversial technical victory of a longshot over a favorite left fewer betters with winnings.


May 6, 2019

On Saturday, a horse named Maximum Security won the Kentucky Derby — or so it appeared. But upon closer review, the result was overturned.

Maximum Security, which was a favorite to win the race with 9-2 odds, lost the title to a horse named Country House, which had 65-1 odds. The outcome shifted millions of dollars between bettors.

Bet you didn’t see that coming

In a tense, 20+ minute review process, race officials — called “stewards” — reviewed the video of the race and concluded that Maximum Security interfered with competitors.

Maximum Security’s disqualification — the first interference-based disqualification of an apparent victor in the 145-year history of the race — replaced a high likelihood winner with a longshot.

Lots of little losers and a few big winners

12x more people bet on Maximum Security than Country House.

But since Country House’s odd were the 2nd-longest in history, people who bet on Country House won big: $2.5k bets ended up paying $133k.

For some bettors, the result was a big deal. But for bookkeepers, it was business as usual. 

The same percentage (17.5%) of overall bets placed ends up with vendors and prize purses no matter which horse wins: In this case, $2.9m of $16.56m.

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