Sidelined since taking the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1) via disqualification, Country House has been retired. The announcement came in a Friday evening release from co-owner Guinness McFadden’s Blackwood Stables:
“On June 27, Country House was sent to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital for a routine lameness examination, to be followed up by turn out. Country House was examined by Dr. Larry Bramlage and was diagnosed with proximal suspensory ligament desmitis on both front fetlocks. Country House experienced complications and was re-admitted to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital on July 1, where he was treated for a right front lower leg infection.
“Over the course of the next two weeks, the team at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital got the infection under control, but as a result of his non-weight bearing right front foot, he developed laminitis in his left front foot. He was released on July 15 and returned to Blackwood for stall rest. Over the coming months, Dr. Scott Morrison was able to stabilize the foot and make Country House more comfortable. He is currently on turn out and we anticipate that he will make a full recovery, but because of the laminitis and the subsequent steps taken to save his life, he will never race again.
“Over the past seven months, our primary focus has solely been on Country House and his health. With the Derby right around the corner and his health much improved, we felt it was an appropriate time to make this announcement. We appreciate everyone’s patience during this difficult time.”
At exactly this time a year ago, Country House was making his stakes debut in the Risen Star (G2). The Bill Mott trainee was coming off an eye-popping maiden score at Gulfstream Park, where he blew the start but rolled from last to win going away. Then LNJ Foxwoods bought into the promising J.V. Shields Jr. homebred, who was campaigned by his widow, Maury, and nephew McFadden.
Slowly away again in the Risen Star, Country House still looked green during his stretch rally as he closed for second to War of Will. The Lookin at Lucky colt tried two more Derby preps, finishing fourth back at Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and third in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Country House accordingly went off at odds of 65-1 in the Kentucky Derby. The 1 1/4-mile distance brought out the best in the developing sophomore, who crossed the wire second to champion Maximum Security. But Maximum Security’s ducking out on the far turn prompted claims of foul from two jockeys – Jon Court on Long Range Toddy, who was among those involved in a chain reaction, and Country House’s rider Flavien Prat. After review, the stewards disqualified Maximum Security and placed him 17th, behind Long Range Toddy.
Thus Country House became the first horse handed the Kentucky Derby trophy via disqualification for interference on the track. The only other promoted Derby winner, Forward Pass (1968), was elevated after the first-past-the-post Dancer’s Image tested positive for phenylbutazone.
Unfortunately, Country House’s career was cut short just as the May 8 foal was beginning to put it all together. Mott ruled him out of the Preakness (G1) when he was coming down with an illness. Plans for a summer and fall campaign were shelved in mid-June once the chestnut wasn’t training with his former verve.
Country House compiled a record of 7-2-2-1, $2,120,175. He is closely related to Canadian classic winner and Grade 1-placed Breaking Lucky, also by Lookin at Lucky and a half to Country House’s dam, Quake Lake. The War Chant mare sadly died after Country House was born.
Country House’s Grade 3-winning half-sister by English Channel, Mitchell Road, is set to defend her title in Saturday’s Albert M. Stall Memorial on Risen Star Day at Fair Grounds.