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Kentucky Derby Contenders
Jockey Flavien Prat celebrates aboard Country House afer being declared the winners of the Kentucky Derby
The 145th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve was contested on the first Saturday in May. Rain fell during the latter part of the racecard, downgrading the track to sloppy for the main event with a race time temperature of 60 degrees.
21 horses made final entry (20 in the main field and 1 also-eligible,) but after morning line favorite Omaha Beach and Haikal scratched, 19 (inlcuding also-eligible Bodexpress) came out of the tunnel beneath the Twin Spires to the strains of My Old Kentucky Home. Improbable was sent off as the lukewarm 4-1 favorite off second place finishes in both the Rebel (G2) and the Arkansas Derby (G1). In to challenge him included 9-2 second choice Maximum Security, undefeated in 4 starts including the Florida Derby (G1), and 11-2 third choice Tacitus, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2). Santa Anita Derby (G1) runner-up Game Winner was the 7-1 fourth choice with the rest of the field at double digit odds.
Country House on the outside while Maximum Security leads down the stretch.
Country House winner of the Kentucky Derby
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 20 Country House Prat 132.40 56.60 24.60 13 Code of Honor Velazquez 15.20 9.80 8 Tacitus Ortiz 5.60 Winning Time: 2:03.93 $2 Exacta 20-13 3,009.60 $1 Trifecta 20-13-8 11,475.30 $1 Superfecta 20-13-8-5 51,400.10 $1 Super Hi-5 20-13-8-5-16 544,185.90 $1 Oaks/Derby Double 13-20 1,290.50
Left: Country House parades with the Garland of Roses. At 65-1 he is the second longest shot to win the Derby, after 1913 winner Donerail scored at 91-1. Winning trainer Bill Mott said, "I think our horse ran great. You know, 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 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. There are some people that bet on the two horses that got bothered, and they had no chance to get a placing."
Right: Celebrating with the Kentucky Derby trophy.
Left: Country House heads back to the barn in his winner's blanket. Winning co-owner Guinness McFadden said, "I probably had 10 or 12 offers on the horse. And our goal wasn't necessarily to sell the horse, but I felt like it was. Jerry had always told me that it was never my business to own horses that valuable. You never think you're going to win the Derby, obviously. We took less money to partner with the Roths. And they're a known quantity. Nothing about the other people was bad. We just knew what to expect from them and have known them for five, six, seven years. And it's been great."
Right: The Mumm Champagne spray in the winner's circle. Co-owner Jamie Roth added, "It's not the way you want to win. But I'm proud of our horse. I think he ran great. And, more importantly, this sport throws curveballs at you every day. I mean, most of the news is not great news. So you're going to take what you can get and run with it. And I don't think, in any of our eyes, it diminishes what the horse did today. And I think we're all going to sleep well tonight and party hard."
Left: Country House in the post parade. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "The entire trip was good. He broke well and just put me in the race. He was traveling really well the entire race. And once I got him outside and I started to make my move, well, Maximum Security, he kind of drift out and turned us sideways. Like you say, the two horse inside of me had a lot more trouble than I did, but it affect me anyway."
Right: Country House races in 9th as they pass by the first time. Mott added, "I thought we would probably be out the back, and I expressed my thoughts to Flavien just to be patient with him, let him break. I didn't feel he had a lot of early gait speed. When he was laying in close proximity to the leaders, I was a little surprised. But I could tell that he was really traveling well. He wasn't running off, but he was traveling very well. He handled the slot very well."
Left: Country House circles while the stewards review the objection. Prat added, "It's a great moment. It's a dream come true. Coming from Europe, Breeders' Cup was a bigger deal for me. 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."
Right: Country House gets resaddled next to the winner's circle. This seemed to confuse him. Mott added, "He showed up in a big way. Everybody that's been in contact with this horse has showed up in a big way. Everybody has done a great job from before the time that I got him. There's so much that goes into getting these horses to this point, whether it's the farm people that raise the horse, the people that do the matings. And there's a lot of hurdles to jump over. And just to get him to the race is such an honor and, really, such an accomplishment, not just for me but for everybody that deals with him."
Left: Second placed Code of Honor (moved up from third) after the race. Trainer Shug McGaughey said, "He ran a good race. He just cut the corner and it looked like we were going to be home free. But I think he got to looking at the crowd a little bit, according to John (Velazquez). Then the horses ran away from him again, and he was finished. But he ran a good race. We'll get him back and see what's happening to him, and go from there." Jockey John Velazquez added, "My horse ran great. The rail opened up great for me. It was like ‘Open Sesame.' I was like "Wow, this never happens." I thought I was going to win it. He ran like a green horse down the stretch. He was definitely affected by what was happening to his outside."
Right: Third placed Tacitus (moved up from fourth) walks over before the race. Trainer Bill Mott said, "It took Tacitus a little while to get on track but he came flying at the end." Jockey Jose Ortiz added, "My horse ran a huge race. We were a little unlucky since the pace didn't collapse. Those were good horses in the lead. Country House ran a huge race, too. My horse was digging in late. I had no excuse. In the Belmont, he will be much better running 1 1/2 miles."
Left: Fourth place finisher (moved up from fifth) and beaten favorite Improbable walks over before the race. He was the first one into the paddock. Trainer Bob Baffert said, "I told (all 3 riders) that (Maximum Security) was the horse to beat. I told them be thankful you didn't lose him for $16,000 or else you'd be throwing up all over your horse right now. The field never got separated they were all right there. It was like a kids' soccer game, they were all right there. I knew the first quarter of a mile I knew I was toast. The problem is (Improbable) couldn't get out, the six (Vekoma) wouldn't let him out. He could not get out. I told my riders to stay clean, they don't listen to me." Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. added, "My horse didn't really like the track. I asked him to keep up and he just could not."
Right: Country House walks toward the barns in the shadow of the Twin Spires.
Left: First place finisher (disqualified to 17th) Maximum Security crosses the finish. Jockey Luis Saez said, "I thought I never put anybody in danger. My horse shied away from the noise of the crowd and may have ducked out a little." Trainer Jason Servis added, "It looks like something scared him in the infield, but I haven't been able to watch it that close. I feel bad for the owners, the Wests. I saw 22 [seconds] and I was concerned and 46, I thought it was too fast, but he threw his ears up, I thought he was getting a breather and he'd be OK. He did seem to duck out a little, but when Luis set him down, he was impressive."
Right: Maximum Security and Luis Saez returned without any of the usual celebration. He knew something was wrong. Chief steward Barbara Borden said, "The riders of the 18 (Long Range Toddy) and 20 (Country House) horses in the Kentucky Derby lodged objections against the 7 (Maximum Security) horse, the winner, due to interference turning for home, leaving the 1/4 pole. 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 Number 1 (War of Will), in turn, interfering with the 18 and 21 (Bodexpress). 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."