When Country House was declared the winner of the 145th Kentucky Derby on May 4, veterans injured in the course of their military service shared the victory alongside the horse’s connections. That’s because Country House, sponsored through Sentient Jet, represented Homes For Our Troops, a 501(c) (3)nonprofit organization that builds and donates specially adapted custom homes nationwide for severely injured veterans.
In the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, wounded veterans, each of whom was awarded the Purple Heart, got the opportunity to meet Country House.
Additionally, the colt also wore a blanket throughout the lead up to the run for the roses as well as an emblem on his saddle towel to raise awareness for Homes For Our Troops.
For Country House’s primary owner, Mrs. J. V. Shields Jr., the decision to have Country House represent wounded veterans was an easy one.
“It is an honor to share Country House’s Kentucky Derby victory with America’s greatest heroes, our veterans,” she said.
Co-owner Jamie Roth of LNJ Foxwoods added: “This past Saturday, Country House provided his owners and connections, our veterans in attendance, and millions watching worldwide the thrill of our lives. We are thankful that Country House’s performance will help bring awareness to the real heroes —those military men and women who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect our country.”
Sentient Jet’s relationship with horse racing traces back more than a decade. The iconic private aviation company has been associated with the sport’s biggest events and organizations, including the Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup, and Fasig-Tipton.
For the first time, last year, Sentient Jet sponsored a Kentucky Derby horse with the goal of spotlighting the work of Homes For Our Troops. The horse selected in 2018 was, fittingly, named Combatant (he finished 18th). This year, Derby favorite Omaha Beach (who was scratched from the race May 1) and Country House both were chosen for the partnership, based in part because of their names.
Multiple recipients of homes that are being provided by Homes For Our Troops were in attendance last year, as they were May 4 when Country House stepped into the starting gate at Churchill Downs. It’s unlikely that they could have ever imagined what would transpire over the next few minutes, culminating with a victory by the horse at odds of 65-1.
“This past weekend’s events at the Kentucky Derby presented many incredible experiences for our veterans, including celebrating in the winner’s circle after the race,” said Tom Landwermeyer, president and CEO of Homes For Our Troops. “We are sincerely grateful to Sentient Jet for not only hosting us at the event, but more importantly to us, continuing to bring attention to our mission. Our veterans definitely had the experience of a lifetime, but the exposure that we gained is even more significant and will go far in advancing our mission of building and donating specially adapted homes for these severely injured veterans and their families.”
Andrew Collins, president and CEO of Sentient Jet, echoed appreciation for the partnership and reaffirmed a commitment to the association with Homes For Our Troops and Country House for the remainder of the racing season. He also highlighted the importance of a sustained affiliation in order to keep the momentum going from this past week.
“Celebrating Country House’s victory with our veteran guests was an amazing experience, and one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon,” Collins said. “Perhaps more important, though, was the exposure that the horse gained on Homes For Our Troops’ behalf. His victory put and continues to put the organization on a national stage, and we’re thrilled with the awareness and funds he has helped to raise.”
If you would like to donate to Homes For Our Troops, you may do so through their donation page here.
Dan Tordjman contributed to this story