By Frank Pingue
May 17 (Reuters) - The owner of Maximum Security, the bay colt that finished first in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago but was later disqualified, is so confident in his horse that he issued a $20 million challenge to several rivals on Friday.
Gary West is offering $5 million each to the owners of Country House, War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress if any of those horses finish ahead of Maximum Security the next time they race against him this year.
"Most experts agree that Maximum Security was the best horse in the Kentucky Derby," West said in issuing his challenge.
"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 was the elevated winner of the Kentucky Derby while War of Will placed 7th after finishing 8th, Bodexpress placed 13th after finishing 14th and Long Range Toddy placed 16th after finishing 17th.
West said his offer had nothing to do with what happened to his horse in the Kentucky Derby, where Maximum Security was disqualified after stewards agreed he interfered with the path of other horses in the final turn before the home stretch.
The decision made Maximum Security, who was a 4-1 favorite to win the 1-1/4 mile race at Churchill Downs, the first winner to be disqualified for an on-track infraction in the event's 145-year history.
According to West's statement, there are no restrictions as to the type of race, location, distance or track surface, and the offer is only valid for the next time Maximum Security races against any of the other horses.
West will donate 100% of Maximum Security's winnings from the challenge to the Permanently Disabled Jockey's Fund. If no owners accept the challenge, West pledged to give 10% of Maximum Security's future lifetime racing earnings to the organization.
"I am doing this because I think it would be good for racing and a unique opportunity to bring more people into racing because of the elevated interest this would bring to the sport,” said West. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)