Gary West, the owner of Maximum Security, said Friday he's willing to make up to $20 million in wagers against the owners of Country House, War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress after his horse was disqualified from the 2019 Kentucky Derby for interference after crossing the finish line first.
Lucas Aulbach of the Louisville Courier Journal provided a statement from West, who explained the challenge covers any race for the rest of 2019. He wants the other owners to put in $5 million each if they accept the bet, and noted his potential winnings would be donated to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
"Most experts agree that Maximum Security was the best horse in the Kentucky Derby," he said. "I don't care to discuss the controversy surrounding the events of the race and the disqualification of my horse at this time, but I firmly believe I have the best three-year-old in the country and I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is."
Country House, who was crowned the Derby champion after the DQ, as well as War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress would not have to win the race, only finish better than Maximum Security to win the $5 million bet.
The disqualification marked the first time in the race's 145-year history a horse was removed from the top spot on the tote board for an on-track infraction.
West has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the decision by the Churchill Downs stewards, but he said his $20 million challenge is not about that, but rather to "generate additional interest in the sport," per Aulbach.
The highest purse for any horse race in 2018 was the Pegasus World Cup at $16 million.
So it's possible, if all four of the horses named in West's statement show up to the same race, his offer would create the biggest prize pool in 2019. And that's not even counting the event's payouts. That said, the other horses' owners would have to risk $5 million if they take the bet.
In addition, the virtual match race could help create some drama for horse racing in a year there won't be a Triple Crown winner since Country House won't compete in Saturday's Preakness Stakes.
West also left the door open for the four counterparts to accept the offer in different races, which could lead Maximum Security to compete four more times this year.