While the disqualification of Maximum Security in the May 4 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and subsequent promotion of Country House has dominated post-race discussion, there is actually plenty of interest beyond the central controversy.
Firstly, Maximum Security confirmed the trend of the U.S. classic dirt horse having developed into a miler who can carry his speed, or at least doesn't slow down enough for the real middle-distance horse to catch him. Looking at the Trakus chart, he sped through the first quarter in :22.35, almost as fast as the first quarter of :22.28 set by Justify —the fastest ever by a Derby winner—from last year.
With Maximum Security (by New Year's Day) and to a lesser degree with Country House (by Lookin At Lucky ), it also reminds me of something I began to observe in the closing years of the last century, which is a surprisingly high proportion of winners sired by horses that were standing at a very modest fee at the time the Derby winner was conceived. Among the most notable sires to experience this phenomenon are At The Threshold, Polish Numbers, Cormorant, Silver Buck, Quiet American, Maria's Mon, Our Emblem, Distorted Humor, Boundary, Birdstone, Leroidesanimaux, Flower Alley, and Lucky Pulpit.
Lookin At Lucky, who was advertised for a fee of $25,000 when he sired Country House, is himself by a stallion—Mr. Prospector's son, Smart Strike—who was at one time considered a more of a relatively blue-collar "racehorse sire," but who eventually earned a pair of leading sire titles. As a racehorse, Lookin At Lucky is perhaps most notable as being the only horse to earn honors as champion 2-year-old and champion 3-year-old male since Spectacular Bid three decades earlier. Along the way he captured five grade 1 events—the Del Mar Futurity (G1), Norfolk Stakes (G1), CashCall Futurity (G1), Preakness Stakes (G1), and Izod Haskell Invitational (G1). He also started as favorite in the 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), but had a very rough trip from the one hole. Under the trying circumstances, Lookin At Lucky did remarkably well to recover from 18th in the early stages to finish sixth, beaten by around seven lengths.
Standing at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., where his fee has been as low as $17,500 in two recent seasons, Lookin At Lucky has compiled a very solid record. With his fifth Northern Hemisphere crop now 3-year-olds, he has been represented by 19 stakes winners in addition to Country House, including last year's Horse of the Year and champion older male, Accelerate ; Breaking Lucky , a graded stakes-winning millionaire who also captured the Canadian classic Prince of Wales Stakes; two other graded stakes-winning millionaires, Madefromlucky and Money Multiplier; other graded scorers Dr. Dorr, Lookin to Strike, Dr. Edgar, Lucky Player, and Lookin for Eight; as well as the 2017 Kentucky Derby runner-up, Lookin At Lee .
Lookin At Lucky has also been represented by five Southern Hemisphere crops, one in Australia and four in Chile, where he has become a dominant force. Those crops have provided 25 individual stakes winners—eight grade 1 winners—headed by Wow Cat, an undefeated Triple Crown winner in Chile and victress of the Beldame Stakes (G1) and runner-up in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) in the United States.
Country House's dam, the War Chant mare Quake Lake, was a maiden special weight and allowance winner sprinting on the all-weather at Presque Isle Downs at 4. Bred to English Channel, another son of Smart Strike, she produced Country House's year-older three-quarters sister Mitchell Road, who captured the Feb 16 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Quake Lake was half sister to another notable Lookin At Lucky progeny in the previously mentioned Breaking Lucky, both out of Sky Classic's daughter Shooting Party. A casual look at the catalog page might lead to the conclusion that Shooting Party was a middle-distance turf horse, her career high coming with a second in the Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap (G1T). That, however, was a race in which she was left to set a relatively soft pace on an easy lead, before being run down late. A deeper dig shows that three of Shooting Party's four wins came over six or seven furlongs on dirt, and on one occasion she set extremely rapid fractions of :21.86, :43.96, and :56.25. Her other victory was a seven-furlong turf allowance which she captured in 1:21.10 after setting a 1:08.78 six-furlong split.
Shooting Party's dam, Ayanka (by Jade Hunter), was also speedy, taking the restricted Moonlight Jig Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs. Ayanka is out of Al's Charm, a non-winning sister to graded scorer Herecomesthebride, and is out of Like a Charm, who captured the Sorority Stakes, a race that at the time would have held a status equivalent to a grade 1 event. Her dam, Albany Isle, was imported from Ireland in the 1950s and had an Irish steeplechase pedigree, but appears as ancestress of numerous smart performers including Roaring Lion (champion European 3-year-old colt of 2018), as well other grade 1 winners Zazu, Perfect Soul, Flashy Bull, Zipessa, and Perfect Reflection.
Country House has a pedigree that features considerable inbreeding. Lookin At Lucky is a Mr. Prospector/Danzig (Northern Dancer) cross. His broodmare sire, War Chant, is by Danzig, with a second dam by Mr. Prospector, and his granddam is by a son of Northern Dancer out of a mare by a son of Mr. Prospector. In addition, Sky Classic, the sire of the second dam of Country House, is a half brother to the dam of Smart Strike. This gives a duplication of the outstanding broodmare, No Class, something also found in the pedigrees of eight other stakes winners including Country House's close relatives Mitchell Road and Breaking Lucky.