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Kentucky Derby 2019: Country House wins after disqualification

Louisville Courier-Journal logo Louisville Courier-Journal 5/6/2019 Jason Frakes
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The announcement seemed to come from the heavens, and then all hell broke loose.

“Hold all tickets.”

Country House was declared the winner of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs after the second disqualification in the race’s 145-year history. Maximum Security crossed the finish line first in 2:03.93 but was moved to 17th place after a lengthy review.

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See the 2019 Kentucky Derby replay: Fair or foul? Watch the stunning ending 

The rulingRules officials explain why Maximum Security was disqualified

Many in the rain-soaked crowd of 150,729 booed the result. Connections of Maximum Security celebrated in the winner’s circle but were quickly escorted out, replaced by Country House’s connections.

As the race stewards reviewed the video, Country House trainer Bill Mott stood in the middle of the sloppy Churchill track, surrounded by reporters.

“They don’t take many horses down in the Kentucky Derby,” Mott said before the disqualification was announced. “If it was a maiden $10,000 on a Thursday, it would be a no-brainer. They don’t want the controversy, I’m sure, but you’re supposed to keep a straight line.”

Read more: Country House's Derby win among biggest upsets in sport's history

Maximum Security trainer Jason Servis — thinking he had just joined his brother, John (Smarty Jones in 2004), as the trainer of a Kentucky Derby winner — had just finished an interview with NBC when the “Hold all tickets” call came down.

Servis said he had received “a million” texts of congratulations.

“Now they’re all texting me back — ‘Sorry. Sorry,’” Servis said.

At 65-1 odds, Country House posted the second-biggest upset in Derby history, behind only Donerail’s victory at 91-1 in 1913. Country House paid $132.40 and finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Code of Honor. Tacitus was third.

Fallout: More than $6M in win bets on Maximum Security than Country House

Bob Baffert came up short in his attempt to become the second trainer to win six Kentucky Derbys. His trio finished fourth (Improbable), fifth (Game Winner) and 15th (Roadster), leaving Ben Jones as the only six-time winner.

Maximum Security, the previously undefeated winner of the Florida Derby, set the early pace with quick fractions of 22.31 seconds for the quarter-mile and 46.62 seconds for the half-mile. Long Range Toddy, Bodexpress and War of Will chased closely behind.

Meanwhile, Country House — with the reputation of being a late closer — was much closer than Mott expected on the backstretch.

“I thought he’d be further back,” Mott said. “He was on his game today. Country House was close to the pace. … No matter how hard you look at it, you just never know when they leave the gate who’s going to show that early speed.”

Bloodline: Derby winner Country House comes from a lineage of champions

From the horse's mouth: The most notable quotes from the Kentucky Derby

Maximum Security, ridden by Luis Saez, still led with 5/16ths of a mile to go when he veered into War of Will, which forced Long Range Toddy jockey Jon Court to check his horse. Long Range Toddy finished 16th, which led to Maximum Security being placed 17th in the 19-horse field. Maximum Security wagers placed with TwinSpires.com will be refunded (up to $10). 

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Mott said Country House was only mildly affected by Maximum Security’s foul. Chief steward Barbara Borden said Country House jockey Flavien Prat and Court filed objections against Maximum Security, claiming interference.

“We determined that (Maximum Security) drifted out and impacted the progress of (War of Will), in turn interfering with (Long Range Toddy) and (Bodexpress),” said Borden, who issued a statement but did not take questions from reporters. “Those horses were all affected, we thought, by the interference. Therefore, we unanimously determined to disqualify (Maximum Security) and place him behind (Long Range Toddy), (Long Range Toddy) being the lowest-placed horse that he bothered, which is our typical procedure.”

Mott said Maximum Security “switched to his wrong lead and bore out.”

“And when he did, he forced some horses to come together,” Mott said. “There were a couple of jocks that had to stand straight up at a very critical time of the race. There were still two horses that were very much in the race to get a big piece of it, and they took all chance away from them.”

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Later on, Mott said, “With that said, I’m damn glad they put our number up.”

Servis said he’d need to watch a replay of the race before deciding whether the stewards’ decision was correct.

“The only thing I saw was him duck out a little,” Servis said. “With the crowd and stuff, it’s hard to say if he saw something or got scared. I didn’t get to see it that well.”

Read more: How the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner Country House got its name

A son of Lookin At Lucky out of the War Chant mare Quake Lake, Country House improved to 2-2-1 in seven career starts for co-owners Maury Shields, Guinness McFadden and LNJ Foxwoods.

The only other Derby winner to be disqualified was Dancer’s Image in 1968, who was found to have used prohibited medication. Forward Pass was the declared the winner.

For Country House, it’s on to the Preakness on May 18 in Baltimore.

“As far as the win goes, it’s actually bittersweet,” said Mott, the Hall of Fame trainer who picked up his first Derby victory. “I’d 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 great athlete that he is. Due to the disqualification, probably some of that is diminished.”

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; jfrakes@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @KentuckyDerbyCJ. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/jasonf.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky Derby 2019: Country House wins after disqualification

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