As a Thoroughbred owner, it's easy to get caught up in the moment, especially if you have a horse that's entered in a Road To The Kentucky Derby qualifying race. Owner Guinness McFadden, however, is taking a more realistic approach and is determined not to catch any Derby fever symptoms with Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes entrant Country House. At least not until his name is actually listed on the Leaderboard.
Owned by McFadden in partnership with Mrs. J.V. Shields and LNJ Foxwoods, the son of Lookin at Lucky broke his maiden third time out at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott, Country House came from off the pace and took command at the top of stretch to draw off under a hand ride by 3½ lengths.
“I don't know that you ever really think you're on the Derby trail until it happens,” McFadden said. “You just hope that he's competitive and that he can get better going over a mile. We're pretty pumped. Running here was Bill's call. He had been training well and seemed to be moving forward so this seemed to be the next step. Bill's a great trainer and we'll keep doing what he suggests. We're really happy with where we are right now.”
The dam side of Country House's pedigree possesses some turf and all-weather qualities. He is out of the War Chant broodmare Quake Lake who was a two time victor over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs. Her dam was Shooting Party who was Grade I-placed on grass and produced synthetic stakes winning millionaire and multiple graded stakes placed Breaking Lucky.
Country House's career debut took place over the turf at Belmont Park but was a well-beaten ninth behind eventual stakes winner Empire of War. Prior to his maiden win, he finished a close second at 49-1 over the Aqueduct main rack behind eventual graded stakes-placed Kentucky Wildcat.
“He didn't look too interested when we ran him first time on the turf,” McFadden recalled. “But he had definitely trained well on dirt. He looked like a dirt horse early on and seemed to get over the dirt nicely.”
Earlier on Saturday's card, Country House's older half-sister Mitchell Road is entered in the $75,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes. The homebred 4-year-old daughter of English Channel will seek her third straight win in her stakes debut and has never been beaten more than a half-length. Like Country House, she also is trained by Mott.
“They weren't too similar when I last saw them,” McFadden said. He's an imposing horse. He kind of comes off the pace and she wants to set the pace. There's not too much similar about them I don't think other than them both being good horses. They both like over a mile so that's also a similarity.”
Both horses will be ridden by Luis Saez.
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