Video tour of Kentucky Derby winner Country House's pedigree

May 09, 2019 Kellie Reilly/

Although Country House was a 65-1 surprise when awarded the 145th Kentucky Derby (G1) via disqualification of Maximum Security, the late developing colt was no longshot on pedigree.

Country House is by two-time Eclipse Award winner Lookin at Lucky, who was the first champion two-year-old male to add championship honors at three since Hall of Famer Spectacular Bid (1978-79). In the decade since Lookin at Lucky, only American Pharoah has achieved the feat (2014-15).

His name appeared to be a misnomer at times when Lookin at Lucky was unlucky, notably in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and especially in a nightmare trip sixth in the 2010 Kentucky Derby. But the Bob Baffert trainee proved himself the best of his crop with victories in the Preakness (G1), Haskell Invitational (G1), and Indiana Derby (G2).

Lookin at Lucky is by the Mr. Prospector stallion Smart Strike, who himself scored a major win at Monmouth Park in the 1996 Philip H. Iselin H. (G1). Watch how he rallies past Hall of Famer Serena’s Song, and note that also-ran Our Emblem went on to sire 2002 Derby and Preakness star War Emblem.

Smart Strike has become a significant influence at stud, siring Hall of Famer Curlin and turf champion English Channel as well. They are both successful sires themselves, as is Lookin at Lucky, who is also responsible for champion and 2018 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) hero Accelerate. And daughters of Smart Strike have made an impact too, producing 2009 Kentucky Derby shocker Mine That Bird and First Dude, seen above finishing second to Lookin at Lucky in the 2010 Preakness.

Thus Smart Strike is establishing his own branch of the prolific Mr. Prospector line. The brilliant “Mr. P,” who set six-furlong track records at Gulfstream Park (1:07 4/5) and Garden State Park (1:08 3/5), earned his biggest victory in the 1974 Gravesend H. at Belmont Park.

Smart Strike was enshrined in the Canadian Hall of Fame in 2008, four years after his dam, Classy ‘n Smart, was inducted. Canada’s champion three-year-old filly of 1984, Classy ‘n Smart was a magnificent broodmare responsible for four major winners. Dance Smartly compiled the gaudiest resume of them all. After beating the boys in her historic sweep of the Canadian Triple Crown, she captured the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Dance Smartly preceded her dam, Classy n’ Smart, and half-brother Smart Strike into the Canadian Hall of Fame (1995), and outstripped them both when voted into the U.S. Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs (2003).

Dance Smartly does not appear in Country House’s pedigree as an ancestor. But she would count as his “great aunt” in human terms, and in recognition of the significance of Smart Strike’s family, we’ll include her in the video tour.

Lookin at Lucky’s dam, Private Feeling, is by multiple Grade 3-winning sprinter Belong to Me from the Northern Dancer line. Belong to Me is by Danzig, who was a perfect three-for-three by a combined margin of 21 3/4 lengths. If Danzig had untapped potential on the racetrack, he’s left no such what-ifs at stud as a supersire of global import.

As Country House’s pedigree reveals, he’s inbred to Danzig (in the fourth and third generation, i.e., 4×3) as well as the influential mare No Class (4×4) (more on her below). Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector make three appearances apiece.

Country House’s dam, Quake Lake, is the daughter and granddaughter of Breeders’ Cup winners. Her sire, the Danzig stallion War Chant, crowned his career with a dramatic score in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). In so doing, he was following in the hoofsteps of his own dam, champion Hollywood Wildcat, who prevailed in an epic Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 1993.

War Chant started out by winning his first three starts on dirt, including the San Rafael (G2). After a runner-up effort as the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), and a ninth behind Fusaichi Pegasus in the Kentucky Derby, War Chant switched surfaces and won both of his starts on turf. Here is his signature victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. (The troubled horse flying on the inside and striking the front on the gallop-out is the great Juddmonte sire Dansili.)

Hollywood Wildcat was likewise versatile, as her resume as the champion three-year-old filly of 1993 attests. She landed the Hollywood Oaks (G1) on dirt, the San Clemente and Del Mar Oaks (G2) on turf, and successfully reverted to the main track in the Lady’s Secret and Breeders’ Cup. Watch her pulsating duel to dethrone Hall of Famer Paseana in the Distaff at Santa Anita, with another Hall of Famer, Sky Beauty, fifth:

Hollywood Wildcat’s sire, Kris S., was responsible for champions and major winners around the world, but he might be most recognizable now as the broodmare sire of Hall of Famer Zenyatta. Kris S. was himself by Roberto, a Kentucky-bred who was a champion in both England and Ireland. While Roberto captured the coveted Derby (G1) at Epsom in 1972, his most enduring victory is his upset of all-time great Brigadier Gerard in the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup (G1).

Returning to Country House’s direct maternal line of descent, dam Quake Lake is out of multiple graded stakes-placed turf performer Shooting Party, most notably second in the 2001 Garden City (G1). Shooting Party is by Canadian Hall of Famer Sky Classic, a three-time champion in his homeland who also earned an Eclipse Award as U.S. champion turf horse in 1992. He suffered a tough photo-finish loss to Fraise in that season’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), but had just beaten the same rival in the Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park.

Sky Classic was himself by the immortal Nijinsky II. By adding the grueling St Leger (G1) over more than 1 3/4 miles at Doncaster to prior victories in the 2000 Guineas (G1) and Derby, he swept the English Triple Crown. It had been 35 years since Bahram (1935) turned the treble, and no one has managed it since Nijinsky.

Sky Classic’s dam, No Class, made it into the Canadian Hall of Fame by producing four champions in her homeland. Her other three were Regal Classic, Grey Classic, and the aforementioned Classy ‘n Smart (the dam of Smart Strike, sire of Lookin at Lucky). No Class was by two-time champion Nodouble, the best Thoroughbred ever born in Arkansas. Aside from taking the 1968 Arkansas Derby, Nodouble captured such prestigious events as the 1969 Santa Anita Handicap and 1970 Metropolitan Handicap (in track-record time at Belmont Park).

Shooting Party’s dam, Ayanka, was a Laurel stakes scorer by Jade Hunter. Best known for siring Hall of Famer Azeri, Jade Hunter was himself a major winner by Mr. Prospector. Here is his front-running coup over Cryptoclearance (grandsire of Candy Ride) in the 1988 Donn H. (G1):

More background on Country House – including his three-quarter brother, Canadian classic winner Breaking Lucky – is available in his installment of 'Tales from the Crib.'

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