Kentucky Derby outcome ramps up debate over replay in sports

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Over the years, those who have railed against replay have argued that sports must tolerate some degree of human error. That debate has received a boost from an apparent equine error.

For the first time in 145 runnings of the Kentuky Kentucky Derby, officials disqualified the winner due to a foul that few understand, but that was significant enough to flip the outcome from a 9-2 favorite to a 65-1 underdog. Most of the prior runnings lacked the benefit of multiple angles of high-definition video evidence that would have revealed the kind of subtle rump bump that can get a horse tapped on the shoulder. Today, the things that did and didn’t happen during a race (and every other sporting event) can be seen and scrutinized, and decisions can be adjusted.

The availability of a vehicle for fixing problems not spotted in real time should be celebrated, not castigated. But the “get replay off my lawn” crowd has seized on Saturday’s stunning reversal as proof that the reliance on video review is ruining sport. It’s a strange hill to die on, given that it rests on the idea that bad calls are OK.

They’re not OK, especially with legalized gambling spreading quickly from coast to coast. As more and more Americans wager hard-earned money on the outcome of sporting events, the outcome must be as pure and reliable as possible.

No one is arguing that the rules didn’t require the disqualification of Maximum Security, probably because few understand the rules (including the horses). The argument apparently flows from the notion that some would rather have a wrong answer immediately than the right answer eventually.

Those with money regularly riding on the final outcomes of sporting events should prefer the right answer. They deserve the right answer. And if they don’t get the right answer, Congress eventually will implement the kind of regulatory agency that will ensure that they’ll get the right answer.

Many will scoff at the idea of a Federal Wagering Commission (or whatever name they’d give it). But the SEC has for decades promoted fairness in the legalized gambling that is the buying and selling of stock, and it won’t take many gambling controversies to get Congress to do the same thing with betting on sports.

Reliance on replay review to fix mistakes will go a long way toward further complicating football, baseball, basketball, hockey, horse racing, etc. by adding a layer and level of oversight that will expand, not reduce, the instances in which technology is relied upon to get calls right. Which actually could be a good thing, but only if you like your sporting events to be won by the ones who deserve to win.

66 responses to “Kentucky Derby outcome ramps up debate over replay in sports

  1. Most people are fine with replaying outcomes, i.e. touchdown, fumble, baseball fair or foul, soccer/hockey goal or no goal, etc.

    What we don’t want is high definition replays on every aspect, of every play, for every possible foul/infraction. Part of sports is gamesmanship, from a catcher framing a pitch, to an offensive lineman hiding a hold by keeping his arms/hands inside the chest, to a DB getting away with PI by subtle hand and body placement.

    That is all part of sports.

  2. I think the Kentucky Derby ruling will actually make gamblers feel better about wagering their hard earned money, since the horse that tried pushing the limit got caught. The big money horse gamblers know more about horse racing than the average Joe, so the cheating was clear. That ruling will be great for the jockey’s room. Now, riding skills will be more prominent that deftness in cheating. Love it! The best horse, or the best team should always win, and replay has been awesome for every sport. Not perfect, but just awesome.

  3. Both the Eagles’ illegal formation on their “Philly Special” and their total mugging of Gronk and Hogan on the Pats’ final Hail Mary were clearly visible from every angle of replay. Or 2009 where Pats made a 4th & 2 but it was deliberately marked short to let Peyton’s Colts win again. Or the Pats-Giants SB where refs gifted a deep ball phantom DPI but ignored a blatant one on Welker on a deep pass – a 14pt differential in a close game. The problem isn’t replay, it’s deliberating ignoring rules to stop the Patriots’ Dynasty winning too often.

    Or changing the rules every time the Pats win in spite of refs/NFL ignoring existing rules:
    1) changing contact rules to allow Peyton’s Colts to finally get past the Pats’ physical D.
    2) changing subbing rules as Ravens didn’t see the Pats lineup even though ref told them.
    3) changing catch rule in March 2018 to allow a TD where the catcher doesn’t hold onto the ball, doesn’t fully control it going across the line and allows it to bounce on the ground! (i.e. everything a 5yr old would tell you means it isn’t a catch) – all because Steelers’ Jessie James couldn’t score a TD doing this in wk15 2017, which meant Pats beat them yet again.

  4. I don’t think that many people are opposed to the concept of replay, and getting calls right. It’s when the games are slowed to an interminable length, and become almost unwatchable that the problem arises.
    Maybe increasing technology helps speed the process, or as someone I read pointed out, establish a 15-second time limit for officials to review, and either uphold or reverse a call. If it can’t be done within that time frame, then there was likely not enough visible evidence to change the call on the field, ice, track, etc. This would not unduly disrupt games, and would likely satisfy just about every reasonable person.

  5. Lets wait till tomorrow before really discussing this situation. Tomorrow is when Peter Kings turns in his long awaited weekly column. For sure he will address it from I think, I think to Newman. Remember, by tomorrow he will be an expert on the Kentucky Derby, how it impacts the NFL, Bruce Arians view of the Derby as he wears a goofy cap, and Tom Brady’s and Von Miller’s view from Churchill Downs.

  6. Imagine the outcry had the 65:1 horse won and was disqualified allowing the 9/2 horse to win. The payouts would have been considerably less. By the letter of the law/rules, the correct decision was made, but clearly the best horse is not the winner of the Derby today.

  7. I didn’t watch the Derby, so I can’t comment on that particular instance. The question here is whether or not the action which is being penalized affects the outcome. For example, calling holding on a player on the opposite side of the field from where the play was being run is just a gift to the other team. Using replay to discover every such illegal action is not adding fairness to the game.

  8. >>The availability of a vehicle for fixing problems not spotted in real time should be celebrated, not castigated

    Except it creates as many problems as it fixes.
    If it catches an obviously blown call/missed foul, then thats good.

    But if it causes a panel of refs to argue about whether some very small action is a foul or not then it detracts from the event.

    Replays are only good on missed obvious calls, not on subjective ticky tack calls.

    They are fine in a race in identifying who crossed the line.

  9. The interference was plainly visible during the race, It was just a question if the stewards were going to DQ! The concerns of gamblers should be the Last thing on the minds of those reviewing the play!

  10. Replay in this instance cannot provide the answer. No one disagrees with the visual, neither does anyone disagree with the interpretation of the rule. The disagreement lies with the application of the rule to the visual evidence.

  11. I have always disliked the idea of “playoff hockey” or “playoff basketball” where officials swallow their whistles and people say ‘let the players decide the games’.

    Failing to call existing violations of the rules because it is a big game is ludicrous. It improperly affects the outcome and penalizes the teams/players who are playing by the rules.

    Anyone who doesn’t think the violation in the Kentucky Derby should be called should also believe that the missed pass interference in the New Orleans game was just ‘letting them play!’

  12. And then we have the recent play in the Bruins/Columbus series in the NHL where a puck clearly went out of bounds and the linesmen said they didn’t see it. When the replay was shoe it clearly showed the puck hitting the net, but play was allowed to continue and Columbus scored a goal which was allowed to stand. The explanation of why was even stranger than what happened with the replay.

  13. The problem with this review in the Kentucky Derby is that the best horse did not win. Anyone could argue the best horse in the race was either Maximum Security, War of Will or Long Range Toddy. But not the horse who was given the victory, Country House. The only two horses affected by MS’s switching to the wrong lead were WoW and LRT. Their jockey’s had to either break stride (WoW) or pull up (LRT).

    The bigger problem here is horse racing’s well publicized history of outside influence and the controlled outcomes of races. Maximum Security had a ton of money bet on him, Country House did not. Do the math and one can understand the lack of trust and outrage with this “decision”. Twinspires even refunded Maximum Security win ticket bets.

    So this is a huge problem for horse racing that doesn’t really correlate to the NFL review…yet anyway.

  14. I like replay in sports. I don’t understand what rule was broken by the horse or jockey (because I watched it without turning on the audio), but cheating should not be allowed in any sport. Imagine what would have happened if Rosie Ruiz was declared the winner of the Boston Marathon, and replays (or other ways to monitor rule violations) were not allowed to overturn the unofficial results.

  15. I don’t like correct or accurate results, that’s why I oppose replay.

    Seriously though, it’s like the people who don’t like it didn’t watch all the screwy officiating in the 1980s and 1990s.

  16. apparently we have folks in this country that dont like fair play.We used to have some integrity and all but not anymore.Its come down to this.They would rather have some bad play play out rather than calling it out and changing it.Its called cheating.Period.

  17. “As more and more Americans wager hard-earned money on the outcome of sporting events,”
    ——
    It’s nice to know that more and more Americans have extra money to gamble with

  18. The gambling angle can go both ways though. There will be questionable “overturns” too, which will look a heck of a lot more suspicious than a regular bad call.

  19. Well if Streetyson is right, the patriots should have won 15 of the last 19 super bowls. My gosh New England has been the most robbed organization on the planet!

  20. My friend put $5 WPS on the #20 Country House and won $600. He missed out on the triactor when he boxed a 20, 13, 5, 9. His friend wanted to put the same WPS bet but did it on #13 Code Of Honor. After he realized he picked the wrong horse and huff and puff he made an additional $10 WPS bet on Country House. Needless to say he was happy with the outcome after the DQ. Now if he made the exactor bet he could have won at least $3000 on just a $2 exactor bet. I won $6. I also went to the Kentucky Derby last year in the pouring rain. So I’m glad it wasn’t sunny there this year.

  21. It’s bad enough when jockeys break the rules.
    But when horses do it…

    Good thing we have replay.

  22. As a fan of horse racing, these types of things happen every day. No matter what the replay shows, the determination of whether the horse will be taken down is left up to the human element (Stewards) so the argument of taking out the human element is a fallacy. I’ve seen many times where a horse should or shouldn’t be dq’d that made me shake my head and I’ve benefited and been screwed by the determination of the Stewards and guess what? As a gambler you learn to accept the stewards decision and move forward.
    Btw I thought the Stewards made the right call and I lost a good amount based on that ruling. . Professional gamblers don’t get overly upset over these things. The lightweight gambler on draft kings is the one crying over his $2 loss. If you can’t accept losing, don’t gamble.

  23. Gambling has ruined sports.

    I agree 100%. There’s a huge difference though between a professional gambler and the “newbie” on draft kings. They’ve ruined sports

  24. The problem is that if they are going to review that, then they should have reviewed the entire race and disqualified every horse and jockey who committed any foul throughout the entire race. And if they did that, then there may not have been enough horses to fill out the money. The NFL is venturing into reviewing pass interference this season. It will be a sh!tshow and bring more unfairness to games not less. Why not review all penalties? I’ve seen miscalled holding and clipping penalties fraudulently determine games just as much as pass interference.

    Also, if it was an undisputed call then why did it take 22 minutes? If something is clear, then it shouldn’t take 22 seconds. Or maybe they were determining how much a 65-1 long shot was going to affect Vegas before pulling the trigger.

  25. Think you are absolutely correct Mike, thank you. Those with money riding on an event should long for getting it right, that’s the goal. And that should have always been the goal for those of us who don’t bet. We want a fair and impartial view and decision, that’s it. The addition of replay for pass interference is a step forward but also those who manage and adjudicate need to be more efficient in getting the decision completed. Fans don’t want to wait over a certain length of time for a decision when the networks replay gets it done in a few seconds. To date, many of the leagues who have implemented replay are too slow which plays in to the hands of the non-replay lovers. The NHL is great and should be the model. College football is next I would say. The look is good, not the huddling up over a pad. Go to a video judge who’s in contact with a centralized replay center and once a decision is made just call it down to the field.

  26. Personally, I think the officials should intentionally fudge the clock and let the last few seconds run out in big football and basketball games, just like they did in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s only fair.

  27. I wish Maximum Security did win because I tried to put some cash on Country House and was too late to get the bet in.

  28. It would be a really nice world where you could gamble and never lose (or win) money on horrible officiating.

    But the NFL and nobody else owes accuracy or anything else, at all, to gamblers.

  29. concretechuckles says:
    May 5, 2019 at 5:00 pm
    Does Maximum Security understand that he cheated?
    Has it been explained to him so he doesn’t do it again?

    concretechuckles drops the mic.

  30. Horse racing is a vicious and brutal sport, a blood-soaked playground for the rich, and a graveyard for too many noble players (23 horses dead at Santa Anita Park alone this year). It should be outlawed. But the NFL — nah, that’s okay!

  31. Calling this is a sport is laughable. I live near Saratoga and used to go 10-15 times a Summer. When horses kept dying and the rich pompous jerks with dumb hats seemingly multiplying, I called it a day. Something is very fishy here. And this is a “Sport” which had been rife with cheating and scandal.

  32. I’d rather be able to cheer for eyeball touchdowns and not spend an extra half hour each game watching the refs huddle up and go frame by frame. Sports existed and grew in popularity exponentially for decades without the need to get everything exactly right. This isn’t chemistry – a couple missed calls, on bang bang plays, isn’t going to kill anyone.

  33. Bad calls ARE ok. The gambling excuse is a tired broke cheap trick. If people are going to waste their money on gambling then that’s their problem, not everyone else’s. Bad calls add drama and excitement. Bad calls that stand also save me commercial break time. Notice how much dead time there is in ball games due to all of the rule changes and reviews. Hey, how many times have refs reviewed the plays and still made the wrong call!???? Sorry, but human error isn’t going anywhere because there has to be human review. Perusing perfection when it’s impossible is illogical…at the very least stupid.

  34. omeimontis says:
    May 5, 2019 at 12:04 pm
    I like replay in sports. I don’t understand what rule was broken by the horse or jockey (because I watched it without turning on the audio), but cheating should not be allowed in any sport. Imagine what would have happened if Rosie Ruiz was declared the winner of the Boston Marathon, and replays (or other ways to monitor rule violations) were not allowed to overturn the unofficial results.

    I feel you but it wasn’t cheating per se. It was against the rules, and based upon contact and position. It was against the rules. From what I saw the jockey (not the horse, btw. I do not think they care about win or lose) didn’t allow the right passing to two riders and crowded them. Just against the rules, not cheating.

  35. There is a huge difference between reviewing a claimed foul, claiming a foul and just missing the foul altogether. It strikes me that one of the terms for what happened in the Derby is that the winning horse was “taken down”. As in “Maximum Security was taken down for interference.”

    What this all tells me is that an outcome is always in question and subject to the will of the watching and not at all confirmed by the attending.

    For the world of horse racing, the Preakness can’t arrive soon enough to wash away the folly that was the Derby. Just like the Super Bowl could be played with enough alacrity to silence the clamor about what happened in New Orleans. One over analyzed and dealing huge blow the gem of the sport. The other, a clear miss, putting the penultimate event into enormous competitive question. Sad, really.

  36. fishfan77 says:
    May 5, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    And this is a “Sport” which had been rife with cheating and scandal.

    ————————————

    Milkshakes, frog juice, steroids, analgesics, cobalt, sodium bicarbonate, buzzing, jockey’s pulling reigns, ringers sent in from other states-countries under false names…

  37. A friend went to a smaller track once back in the 80s and they posted the exact order of finish of the next race on the toteboard before the horses had even raced.

  38. I owned and trained racehorses for 8 years and the second Maximum jumped lanes and almost clipped heels with War of wills I knew he “should” be DQ’d. For those who don’t know the sport I could see how that looked “fixed” or “shady” but go tell that to the jockeys who have been paralyzed from moves like that. Had war of wills clipped heels and went down we could be easily talking about many deaths yesterday and calls to end the sport completely. We are very lucky that a DQ was the only thing that happend.

  39. NBC News this Sunday evening says the disqualification is “controversial” and the replays did not seem to show any egregious foul committed by the winning horse or the jockey. It is a shame that a “ticky tack foul” resulted in the overturn of the results of a major sporting event like the Kentucky Derby. Feel sorry for those people who bet on the apparent winner and they reportedly lost more than $7 million.

  40. This assumes officials aren’t prone to overturning correct calls into bad calls on replay, which absolutely happens. Look at The Tuck Rule, The Dez Bryant TD against the Packers, just a few weeks ago we had the NCAA Men’s basketball championship game swung on a ridiculous out of boumds posession call reversal in Virginia’s favor. Then yesterday’s Derby ruling was very borderline as well. Replay is OK, but the calls should be consistent with the spirit of the rules and how they’re consistently applied. Not a super slow motion, frame by frame assessmemt to cook up an awful call.

  41. jh82208 says:
    May 5, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    I owned and trained racehorses for 8 years and the second Maximum jumped lanes and almost clipped heels with War of wills I knew he “should” be DQ’d. For those who don’t know the sport I could see how that looked “fixed” or “shady” but go tell that to the jockeys who have been paralyzed from moves like that. Had war of wills clipped heels and went down we could be easily talking about many deaths yesterday and calls to end the sport completely. We are very lucky that a DQ was the only thing that happend.

    ———————————–

    Then you should know when you put a group of 20 horses together in a single race that this happens all the time. From the start of the race, around the turns and in the home stretch. Jockey’s are forced to pull reigns and break the horses stride to avoid a horse moving out of their lane.

    And how many rank horses are allowed to run repeatedly race after race and even make their way into the Derby? Baffert’s Solomini last year routinely crossed multiple lanes in his races. Magnum Moon last year crossed about 7 lanes in either the Arkansas Derby or the Rebel right before entering in the Kentucky Derby. State of Honor the year before that was really rank and routinely crossed 3-5 lanes in races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Plenty of more examples…

  42. “The argument apparently flows from the notion that some would rather have a wrong answer immediately than the right answer eventually.”

    No

    That’s cherry picking

    Cognitive Dissonance

    Human Brains strongly prefer being consistent over being right

    The argument flows from the notion that most all of the attending human brains want the winner to be whom they thought would win

    If replay’s use always sides with whom we thought, not want, but thought would win/loose there would never be an issue

  43. jh82208 says:
    May 5, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    I owned and trained racehorses for 8 years and the second Maximum jumped lanes and almost clipped heels with War of wills I knew he “should” be DQ’d.

    —————————

    In the 2017 Kentucky Derby Irish War Cry broke out of the gate from the 17 position and crossed over and bumped Tapwrit who in turn bumped McCraken (and punctured his hoof taking him out of the next two triple crown races) who bumped Classic Empire who bumped J Boys Echo. This multiple lane cross by IWC cost 4 of the top 5 Derby favorites a shot to finish in the money. Yet nothing was done to Irish War Cry. No DQ. And a horse (McCraken) was injured with several of the horses almost going down.

    What the average horse racing fan doesn’t understand here is the rarity of the Kentucky Derby in having 20 horses in the race. Which in turn overloads the track. As it’s not often that you see a Derby horse running outside of lane 10 in the race. So the horses are doubled and often tripled up fighting for the same lanes.

    This is why there has never been a winner DQ’d for crossing over in Kentucky Derby history. If you’re any kind of a horseman you well know this.

  44. Since when did sports become all about making the gamblers happy?

    We are losing the beautiful moment in sports when participants and fans experience the spontaneous thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. Instead it’s oh we may have a (fill in the blank). Let’s take a look at the screen and have a debate and wait for the conclusion to be announced. This is not why I watch sports.

  45. To the casual horse racing fan (who watches the Derby each year) a disqualification seems incredible. But to those who have been to horse tracks on numerous occasions disqualifications are not an unusual event. The only unusual aspect of this was the high profile nature of the race and all the extra eyeballs and betting on the race.

  46. When the entire event only lasted 2 minutes yet it takes you 20+ minutes to review the replay and decide what to do you are doing it all wrong. The rule of thumb that needs to be followed is if you can’t definitively figure things out watching the replay at regular speed within a couple of viewings then you don’t overturn anything. That way you’re only ever fixing egregious errors and you never are straying into the 50/50 sort of calls where one person decides something MIGHT have happened while somebody else things the exact opposite.

  47. jh82208 says:
    May 5, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    I owned and trained racehorses for 8 years and the second Maximum jumped lanes and almost clipped heels with War of wills I knew he “should” be DQ’d. For those who don’t know the sport I could see how that looked “fixed” or “shady” but go tell that to the jockeys who have been paralyzed from moves like that. Had war of wills clipped heels and went down we could be easily talking about many deaths yesterday and calls to end the sport completely. We are very lucky that a DQ was the only thing that happend.

    ================================================================

    Thanks for contributing an informed opinion. I’m not an expert, though I’ve been to the track from time to time, and in my spare time I used to go riding. I used to jump as well, though the Christopher Reeves accident forced me to reconsider.

    Those racing rules are there for a reason, and that’s safety. Best selling author Lauren Hillenbrand wrote about the “bright, cheery sound” that clipped heels make, I’ve heard it as well. It always portends disaster at the track, with injured or killed horses and jockeys. That’s exactly why you cannot allow a horse to impede another when they do not have control of the lane.

    It is unclear whether the Maximum Security’s jockey did this intentionally, or it was the horse focusing on a rival gaining on the outside. It’s a horse, they have distinct personalities, so I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that there was cheating. There’s an old proverb, “Know your horse”. That’s why a jockey has to understand what his mount will do in race conditions, so that if the horse has a tendency to crowd and impeded, the jockey can anticipate and correct.

  48. There’s a difference between “fair play” and sanitizing competition down to taking the “sport” out of sports. Human error is all part of the game and true competitors understand this and are challenged to up their game and prevail. “Butt bumping” occurs in horse racing just as race cars “bump” in NASCAR. Replays and constantly rewriting the rules to accommodate a particular side, only serves to water down the competition. No real competitor wants to “win” by a gimmee…kind of makes the victory hollow rather than hard fought and true. Part of the thrill of betting is the element of chance and uncertainty;if you are looking for a pure, predictable outcome where errors have been removed, perhaps a more comfortable place would be a lab. Betting is considered a game of chance and if the “chance” is removed where is the fun? Being awarded a win, such as the Lombardi, on an overturn due to technicality on replay wouldn’t feel deserved to most fans and the backlash would negate the thrill of such a “victory”.

  49. As a past racehorse owner, that was the correct result. It was a shame, because it was obvious Maximum Security was the best horse in the race. He did move off the rails coming off the last turn, and clipped 2 horses, who then had no chance of winning the race. It could have been a complete fiasco if the horses had been “brought down”. In my opinion the jockey should have corrected the horse immediately. The reason for the 20 mins was the stewards had to get it right, so they watched it from all angles over and over.
    I would put Mike Smith or one of the other Top jockeys on the horse next time he races.
    It was a shame, the best horse did not win that Derby.

  50. It doesn’t matter which horse wins…the payout is the same…that’s how the odds are created. There wasn’t any influence of how much money Churchill Downs was paying out by changing the winner…they get the same cut regardless of who wins.

    Based on the rules they made the right decision. The horse was all over the track. The unfortunate part is that War of Will or Long Range Toddy didn’t hang on for 2nd in order to be declared the winner. Since there is no way of knowing that Country House wouldn’t have beaten WoW or FRT anyway…they can’t move a horse up in the finish…they can only move the offending horse down.

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