September 27, 2022

Five historical disqualifications that remain controversial

The mighty Secretariat once had a win negated in the 1972 Champagne (Coglianese Photo provided by Leonard Lusky of

What DQs in horse racing have stood the test of time?

The decision that awarded Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1) victory to Country House will be talked of for years to come. While they did not occur on stages as large, there have certainly been other controversial disqualifications resulting from actions on the track that have resounded through the years.

Here are five of the more memorable disqualifications.

1967 Jersey Derby

So popular and imposing a favorite was Dr. Fager that the record crowd of more than 51,000 at Garden State Park made him the 3-10 favorite to beat only three others. While he crossed the finish line 6 1/2 lengths ahead of In Reality, a claim a foul against Dr. Fager for squeezing his rivals entering the clubhouse turn, a full seven furlongs before the finish, resulted in his demotion to last place and a 15-day suspension for jockey Manny Ycaza. It was the only time the future Hall of Famer would officially finish out of the money in 22 career starts.

1972 Champagne

Two years after Hoist the Flag won by three lengths as the 4-5 favorite, but was placed last of 16 after interfering with a 69-1 longshot on the backstretch, the Champagne verdict was again reached in the stewards room at Belmont Park when budding superstar Secretariat had a two-length victory over Stop the Music reversed. Grainy black-and-white footage showed Secretariat dropping in on Stop the Music in upper stretch without it making much noticeable impact on the aggrieved party. It was Secretariat’s only official stakes loss as a juvenile.

1978 Travers

The 10-race rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar came to a most unsatisfying end at Saratoga when Affirmed was disqualified from first to second after dropping in on Alydar entering the far turn, forcing his long-time rival to check sharply. Alydar recovered well enough to finish 1 3/4 lengths behind the Triple Crown winner. Arguably the most warranted disqualification on this list, it was still bittersweet. “It was a win, but not a win,” lamented Alydar’s trainer, John Veitch.

1994 Santa Anita Handicap

The Wicked North, who would win an Eclipse Award as the best older horse of the year, saw his Big ‘Cap win overturned after drifting in on Myrakalu in the stretch, forcing the 31-1 outsider to steady. While The Wicked North proved much the best in that race, and later earned Grade 1 wins in the Oaklawn Handicap and Californian, he was officially only the fourth-place finisher in this renewal.

2004 Arlington Million

Drifting in under right-handed pressure from Jamie Spencer in the stretch, European invader Powerscourt perhaps, at most, crowded Epalo, who in turn bumped eventual runner-up Kickin Kris into the rail. Despite a dominating victory, Powerscourt’s win was not allowed to stand and he was demoted to fourth. He returned to Arlington a year later for the Million and easily dispensed with reigning turf champion Kitten’s Joy by three lengths in a masterful piece of redemption.

DeROSA: The most costly disqualifications in horse racing history

1 Comment on Five historical disqualifications that remain controversial

  1. There was one in the Arlington million where Gary Stevens almost got killed. It happened right at the finish line. Maybe 20 years ago
    also another at either Sa.or Hollywood park in (I think) a grade 1 race It involved Chantel Sutherland and maybe mike smith. It cost my best friend about $44,000 the best he could figure.

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