Someday, hopefully in the not too distant future, all the
anger, pain, frustration, and feuding that resulted from the 2019 Kentucky
Derby will at least dissipate to the point where we can all move on. For some,
like Gary and Mary West, Jason Servis, Luis Saez and all those who saw their
scorching mutuel tickets reduced to ashes right before their eyes, it will be
more difficult. But in racing there is always tomorrow and more horses to train
and more tickets to cash and new stars emerging.
We will always remember the parties involved in this year's
Derby and we will certainly remember Maximum Security for the courageous race
he ran and what was taken away from him, whether deservedly so or not. Some will
remember Flavien Prat as the jockey who stole the Kentucky Derby, while others
will remember him for his quick thinking by opening the stewards' eyes to the
infraction he witnessed.
But what of the horse who has actually gone into the record
book as the winner of the 145th Kentucky Derby? Not many people are talking
about him. We have never seen a Kentucky Derby winner so ignored in regard to
who he is and what he accomplished. Right now while the flames still burn, he
is merely the horse who didn't deserve to win racing's greatest prize. Perhaps
when those flames finally are extinguished, he will be appreciated at least to
some degree. It is Country House's job to elevate himself to where he can
capture the public's respect and create his own fan base. Who knows, that
could come in the Belmont Stakes or the Travers Stakes or even the Breeders'
What we have to remember is that the horse who ran hard
against 18 top-class opponents in the slop to finish second in the Kentucky
Derby is like a brawny teenager who still has a lot of maturing to do and who
did not even turn 3 until four days after the Derby. This a horse who is so
strong and tough, trainer Bill Mott was able to wheel him back three weeks
after the Louisiana Derby and run him in the Arkansas Derby just to get enough
points to ensure a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby and then run him back
in another three weeks at Churchill Downs. You rarely see horses like that any
longer. He is quickly becoming a throwback to when horses ran hard and often
and thrived on it.
What we saw on the first Saturday in May is only the tip of
the iceberg. What will Country House be capable of later in the year when he
finally does mature into a seasoned professional athlete? We got a glimpse of
that the day he broke his maiden when he veered sharply to the inside from the
1 post, nearly hitting the rail and dropping back to last. He regained his
composure, settling in stride, and then delivered an explosive move on the far
turn, sweeping to the lead and drawing off to win by 3 1/4 lengths. We also got
a glimpse of it in the Risen Star Stakes when he again rallied on the far
outside and finished second to the brilliant War of Will despite lugging in
badly. So it wasn't very long ago that he was still a big baby learning how to
be a racehorse.
To demonstrate how he has thrived on racing and has never
really regressed in seven career starts, his Thoro-Graph pattern in his past
five starts reads as follows: 6 1/4...4...4 1/4...2 1/4...1/2. He has improved two
full points in each of his past two starts despite racing at three-week
intervals and stretching out in distance each race. He has hit the board in six
straight starts, while racing at five different racetracks in five different
states. That is as close to a throwback as you're going to find these days.
Assistant trainer Riley Mott said of him back in January, "Physically,
he's built like a grown man. If you had a two-turn horse, you would want it to
look like him."
A lot of that toughness comes from his Rasmussen Factor
4x4 (RF) inbreeding to the great producer No Class, the dam of four
champions: Sky Classic, Regal Classic, Grey Classic, and Classy N Smart, who in
turn produced Canadian Triple Crown winner and Breeders' Cup Distaff winner
Dance Smartly, as well as two-time champion sire Smart Strike, sire of Curlin,
Lookin At Lucky (Country House's sire), English Channel, Battle of Midway, and
My Miss Aurelia.
No Class is a daughter of Nodouble, one of the toughest
horses I have seen in my 50 years in racing. A long lean gazelle-like horse, he
was nicknamed The Arkansas Traveler, competing in major races all over the
country. He defeated the great Damascus in the Michigan Mile and an Eighth at
Detroit Race Course, defeated the brilliant Reviewer in the Met Mile at
Belmont, defeated his arch rival Verbatim in the Brooklyn Handicap at Aqueduct,
won a pair of Hawthorne Gold Cups at Hawthorne, defeated Hall of Famer Gamely
in the Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita, defeated the classy Rising Market
in the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park, set a track record winning the San
Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita, and captured the Arkansas Derby.
He also placed in the Preakness, Hollywood Gold Cup, Charles
H. Strub Stakes, Gulfstream Park Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Met Mile, Woodward
Stakes, American Derby, and Californian Stakes.
He set track records at Belmont and Santa Anita and equaled
the track record for 1 1/4 miles at Hawthorne. And he won on all kinds of track
conditions. After retiring, he was the leading sire in North America in
earnings and stakes winners. Leon Rasmussen dubbed him "The Hundred
Grand Specialist." He was called "The Iron Horse" in
That is the blood that runs through Country House, not once
No one knows what the future holds for Country House, but
for now let's embrace him and give him credit for trying very hard to win our
hearts. That will become easier to accomplish as he keeps maturing and
improving and the fumes of May 4 begin to dissipate.
So just for a moment let's calm down and put our feelings
and hostilities aside and simply appreciate the horse who will forever be known
as the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby.