Trainer Bill Mott has waited throughout his Hall of Fame career to win the Kentucky Derby, so the extra 20 minute delay by the Churchill Downs stewards after Saturday's 145th edition wasn't anything new. Finally, the stewards revealed their decision: with the second-longest winning odds in Kentucky Derby history, 65-1 chance Country House will be listed as the official winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby after the horse that crossed the wire ahead of him, Maximum Security, was disqualified for interference.
This is the first time in Kentucky Derby history that a winner has been disqualified for interference.
“You know, as far as the win goes, it's bittersweet,” said Mott. “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 as the very good horse and 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 position at the time to hit the board. And people bet on these races. There's millions of dollars that are bet. And there are some people that bet on the two horses that got bothered, and they had no chance to get a placing.
“And I know the stewards had a very, very difficult decision. I mean, 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 this on TV and around the world.
“But with that being said, I'm damn glad they put our number up.”
Owned by LNJ Foxwoods, E. J. M. McFadden, Jr., and Mrs. Jerry V. Shields, Jr., Country House is a 3-year-old son of Lookin at Lucky. The colt also gave jockey Flavien Prat his first Kentucky Derby win.
Country House was well off the early pacesetter Maximum Security (9-2 second choice), who led throughout the contest but impeded War of Will at the five-sixteenths pole. Prat sent Country House wide around the far turn to finish second by 1 3/4 lengths. The final time for the 1 1/4-mile contest over Churchill Downs' sloppy main track was 2:03.93.
Code of Honor checked in third at 13-1 after getting through at the rail. Royally-bred Tacitus, also trained by Mott, finished fourth at 5-1, and Improbable hit the wire in fifth as the 4-1 favorite.
An objection was initially raised by runner-up Country House and 17th-place finisher Long Range Toddy against the winner Maximum Security, because Maximum Security stepped out into the path of War of Will around the three-eighths pole and nearly sent that colt's jockey Tyler Gaffalione to the ground and also caused an issue with Long Range Toddy and Jon Court. Flavien Prat and Country House were on War of Will's outside, and endured a slight bump as a result of Maximum Security's issue.
“He bothered us slightly,” Mott said of Maximum Security, adding that he didn't believe jockey Luis Saez was directly at fault for the infraction. “He bothered the other two horses dramatically.”
After a lengthy review by the stewards which lasted more than 20 minutes, Maximum Security was disqualified to seventeenth behind Long Range Toddy.
“The riders of the 18 and 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby lodged objections against the 7 horse, the winner, due to interference turning for home, leaving the quarter pole,” said Kentucky chief steward Barbara Borden in a prepared statement. “We had a lengthy review of the race, we interviewed affected riders. We determined that the 7 horse drifted out and impacted the progress of the number 1, in turn interfering with the 18 and 21. Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference, therefore we unanimously determined to disqualify number 7 and place him behind the 18, the 18 being the lowest-placed horse that he bothered, which is our typical procedure.”
Both Maximum Security and War of Will broke sharply from the gate, but it was Maximum Security who took command under the wire for the first time. War of Will took back to settle fourth as both Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress moved up to pressure the frontrunner through fractions of :22.31 and :46.62.
Meanwhile, Country House found himself three-wide after leaving the 20-post around the first turn, but got some company to his outside in the form of Spinoff to keep him bottled up behind rivals down the backstretch.
As Maximum Security ticked off six furlongs in 1:12.50, War of Will was looking for room in behind him as Code of Honor moved up at the rail. Prat and Country House bulled their way through a five-wide hole in the far turn, around Code of Honor, Maximum Security, War of Will, and Long Range Toddy.
When Maximum Security spooked at the crowd nearing the head of the lane, he changed paths from the two all the way out to the five, impeding War of Will and, in turn, Long Range Toddy as the 19-horse field tried to rev up for the run down the stretch.
Luckily, neither Tyler Gaffalione (War of Will) nor Jon Court (Long Range Toddy) were injured in the incident as both horses kept their feet.
Down the stretch, Country House tried to kick away from the field but Maximum Security re-engaged and pulled away to hit the wire 1 3/4 lengths in front. Country House finished second, while Code of Honor was third. Tacitus finished fourth.
“Coming from Europe, Breeders' Cup was a bigger deal for me,” said Prat. “But as soon as I rode the first year here, I was in the grandstands and I watched this race, and it's amazing. I mean, there's no race like the Kentucky Derby. And I was hoping to one day ride it, ride the Derby, and to win it. And it's done today. I'm really happy and blessed.”
Following the disqualification of Maximum Security, the official order of finish is as follows: Country House, Code of Honor, Tacitus, Improbable, Game Winner, Master Fencer, War of Will, Plus Que Parfait, Win Win Win, Cutting Humor, By My Standards, Vekoma, Bodexpress, Tax, Roadster, Long Range Toddy, Maximum Security, Spinoff, and Gray Magician.
The last claim of foul in the Kentucky Derby was filed by John Velazquez and Invisible Ink in 2001 against Jorge Chavez and Monarchos. The only other disqualification in Derby-winner history was Dancer's Image in 1968, but that horse was not disqualified until well after the race when he returned a positive test in the post-race samples. There was one disqualification for a racetrack foul in 2984, when Gate Dancer was placed fifth after finishing fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by the late Jerry V. Sheilds, Country House is out of the winning War Chant mare Quake Lake. He is a half-brother to stakes winners Mr. Brix and Mitchell Road, and broke his maiden in his third career start at Gulfstream Park. Country House earned his way into the Derby field with a runner-up finish in the Risen Star, a fourth in the Louisiana Derby and a third in the Arkansas Derby. The Kentucky Derby is his second career win.
“I really felt he was a horse that probably deserved to run in the Kentucky Derby,” said Mott. “I mean, I saw him that way early on the winter ‑‑ after we saw him break his maiden. I thought he was well‑suited to the mile and a quarter. When he ran in Louisiana, of course, we didn't gain much in the way of points in that race, and we needed some more to ensure a spot in the Derby. And I said all along, I said, this is a big, tough horse. And I said it's not the style now to go back in three weeks or two weeks or whatever. But I said this horse can do it. I said he's a big ‑‑ he's just big and tough and durable, eats the bottom out of ‑‑ he's a dream for a horse trainer because he's just ‑‑ he's won like they trained in the old days. You know what I mean?
“I've been telling people all winter that when we ‑‑ if this horse ever wakes up and figures out, really, what he's doing, that the mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby is certainly within his reach and not to discount him,” Mott added. “This is kind of an unusual way to get to the Winner's Circle with having the DQ in the race. But I would say the stewards, in my opinion, I think they made the right call. And I will try to look at it from an unbiased point of view. I know they looked at it for a long, long time. And I'm sure that they didn't want to do it; but, as I said before, if it was an ordinary race on a Wednesday, I think they definitely would have taken the winner down.”
Just talked with Maximum Security's trainer, Jason Servis, and owner, Gary West. Both indicated that they will purse any available appeals to protest the disqualification of their horse.
— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) May 4, 2019
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) May 5, 2019
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