Country House Awarded Kentucky Derby Via DQ

The following appeared at May 4th and was written by Evan Hammonds. The Triple Crown continues Saturday May 18th with the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

For the first time in the history of the Kentucky Derby, the horse that finished first was disqualified for interference.

After a delay that lasted 21 minutes and 57 seconds as the Churchill Downs stewards reviewed footage of the race, Country House, the second-place finisher, was declared the winner. Maximum Security, the 4-1 favorite who finished first by 1 3/4 lengths, was taken down and placed 17th, behind Long Range Toddy.

Country House, a son of Lookin At Lucky  out of the War Chant mare Quake Lake, was bred by the late Joseph V. Shields Jr. and races for Mrs. Shields, E.J.M. McFadden, and LNJ Foxwoods. He paid $132.40 to win, the second-highest-priced winner in 145 runnings of the race.

Country House (#20) is shown crossing second initially at the wire. Photo by Coady Photography.

The victory was the first in the Run for the Roses for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who ranks second on the all-time wins list at Churchill Downs.

Maximum Security came out as the field made their way around the final turn, bumping with War of Will, who was just to his outside. An objection was made by jockey Flavien Prat, who was aboard Country House. Jon Court, the rider of Long Range Toddy, also lodged an objection.

Barbara Borden, chief steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, issued the following statement:

“The riders of the 18 (Long Range Toddy) and 20 (Country House) horses in the Kentucky Derby lodged objections against the seven horse, the winner, alleging interference turning for home leaving the quarter pole. We had a lengthy review of the race, interviewed affected riders, and determined that the seven horse drifted out and impacted the number 1 (War of Will), who in turn interfered with the 18 and 21 (Bodexpress). Those horses were all affected. Therefore, we unanimously determined to disqualify number 7 and place him behind 18. That is our typical procedure.”

Regarding a victory he called “bittersweet” in light of the disqualification, Mott said, “First of all, I think our horse ran great. I was really pleased with the position he had. I was pleased with the way Flavien rode him and the way the horse responded for him.

“As far as the win goes, it’s bittersweet. I would be lying if I said it was any different. You always want to win with a clean trip and have everybody recognize the horse for the great athlete that he is. I think, due to the disqualification, probably some of that is diminished. But this is horse racing.

“There were two horses in the race that lost all chance to win a Kentucky Derby, and they were in a position at the time to hit the board. I know the stewards had a very, very difficult decision. I’m glad I wasn’t in their shoes. I’m glad I didn’t have to make the decision in front of over a hundred thousand people and the millions of people that are watching on TV around the world. … But with that being said, I’m damn glad they put our number up.”

The time for the race, run over a sloppy (sealed) track drenched by rain late in the afternoon, was 2:03.93.

Maximum Security, the 4-1 favorite, broke sharp in the 19-horse field under Luis Saez. The frontrunning winner of the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) figured to set the pace, and he did, zipping over the wet surface with demanding opening splits of :22.31 and :46.62 while being hounded by Long Range Toddy, Bodexpress, and War of Will, who broke well from the inside post. When the field passed the wire the first time, Country House was ninth.

Maximum Security maintained his advantage through six furlongs in 1:12.50 while a host of runners gathered momentum to make a run at him. War of Will was gaining along the inside, as was Code of Honor. Long Range Toddy and then Country House joined the fray. On the turn, Maximum Security came out from the two path to the four path, brushing with War of Will, who had to check, as did Long Range Toddy.

Maximum Security was challenged strongly by Code of Honor but fought back after a mile in 1:38.63. To the outside was a charging Country House. Tacitus, the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2) winner and Mott’s other runner in the field, rallied in the slop to finish fourth and was awarded the show spot following the disqualification. 

Maximum Security is not the first horse to be disqualified in the Kentucky Derby. In 1968, Dancer’s Image finished first. However, due to the discovery of phenylbutazone (Bute) in a post-race urinalysis of Peter Fuller’s homebred, the Kentucky State Racing Commission ordered redistribution of the purse, with first-place money to Forward Pass. After extensive litigation, the commission’s order was upheld in April 1972 by Kentucky’s highest court in Kentucky State Racing Commission et. al. v. Peter Fuller, 481 S. W. 298.

Jockey Flavien Prat pumps his fists as he leads Country House into the Churchill Downs winners circle. Photo by Coady Photography.

In 1984, fourth-place finisher Gate Dancer was disqualified for interference in the stretch with Fali Time. Gate Dancer was placed fifth and Fali Time promoted to fourth.

In the 2001 Derby, John Velazquez, aboard Invisible Ink, lodged a claim of foul against the winner, Monarchos, who was ridden by Jorge Chavez, for interference at the quarter pole. After review, the objection was not sustained.

Mott had only sent out eight horses previously, with his best finish being seventh last year with Hofburg. His first starter, Taylor’s Special, ran 13th in 1984.

Trainer Bob Baffert, with five wins in his arsenal, had three runners in the Derby: Improbable (fourth), juvenile champion Game Winner (fifth), and Roadster (15th).

Country House broke his maiden in his third try Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park going 1 1/16 miles. He was shipped to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for the Feb. 16 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) and finished second to War of Will. He then ran fourth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths by By My Standards in the March 23 Louisiana Derby (G2). He came to the Derby off a third-place effort in the nine-furlong Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13 at Oaklawn Park.

Country House has a 2-2-1 mark in seven starts. His dam is also the dam of stakes winner Mitchell Road (by English Channel ). She is out of stakes-placed Shooting Party and is a half sister to grade 1-placed Breaking Lucky, who is also by Lookin At Lucky.

Maximium Security broke his maiden for a $16,000 claiming tag Dec. 20. He added starter allowance wins at Gulfstream Park Jan. 24 and Feb. 20 by 6 1/2 lengths and 18 1/4 lengths, respectively. He then wired the field in the Florida Derby and came to the Kentucky Derby with lofty expectations. He is trained by Jason Servis, brother of John Servis, who trained 2004 Derby winner Smarty Jones .

“That’s horse racing,” said Gary West, the breeder and owner of Maximum Security. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you win and lose in the same race.”

West and his wife, Mary, also own Game Winner.

As for the May 18 Preakness Stakes (G1) and the second leg of the Triple Crown, Mott said:

“When I saw that we finished second, I thought the Belmont (Stakes, G1) will be the perfect race,” Mott said. “The Preakness is not even something that we’ve thought about or discussed. It probably wouldn’t have been my first inclination to do that. … We’ll think about it. We’ll see how he is. That’s a big task.”