When The Sheet reached Lisa McFadden on Tuesday morning, she was dropping her champagne-soaked dress off at the dry cleaners.
And she was still in a giddy mood.
You see McFadden, who grew up in Mammoth Lakes and graduated from Mammoth High School in 2000, just happens to own a Kentucky Derby-winning horse.
McFadden, daughter of Fred Kukulus and first wife Peggy, is married to Guinness McFadden, co-owner of 2019 Kentucky Derby winner Country House with his aunt Maury Shields and investors LNJ Foxwoods based out of New York.
She was joined on Derby weekend by her father and brother, Alex.
Country House finished second to betting favorite Maximum Security during the actual race, but was bumped up to the winner’s circle when Maximum Security was disqualified for a race violation.
And made Country House, a 65-1 shot, the unlikely winner.
It was the first time in the race’s 145-year history that the horse crossing the finish line first was disqualified the day of the race.
In 1968, Dancer’s Image won the Derby but was disqualified days later upon testing positive for a banned drug.
And while the disqualification of Maximum Security reportedly cost that horse’s bettors $42 million in lost winnings according to Yahoo! Sports, on the flip side … a friend of the McFaddens won $120,000 on the race and chartered a plane to Miami that night to celebrate.
“We’ve had so many friends calling to tell us they’ve been cashing big tickets,” she laughed.
Her father Fred says he won $5,000 on the race, and then after the race, it was a dizzying evening, including a private party with the Governor, and another victory party at home in Lexington with friends where they were showered with champagne (for about the fifth time that day).
“We didn’t get home until 3:30 a.m.,” says Dad.
McFadden met her future husband in 2001 at the University of Nevada-Reno through mutual friends.
Guinness McFadden and the Mammoth crew, which included Brandon Russell, Matt Morning, Robbie Preschutti and Kyle Bihler, bonded over a love of skiing and snowboarding.
But when Lisa showed up at a party one night, Guinness saw that Mammoth definitely had more to offer.
The pair dated for about eight months in college, and even when they broke it off, remained good friends.
Guinness is from Potter Valley, Calif., where his family owns a vineyard. He knew nothing about horses when his Uncle, Jerry Shields, recruited him to work in the horse business in Kentucky in 2004 (at the time, Guinness was working construction in Reno).
Lisa stayed in Reno post-college, working in a dental office and then also as a bartender at a nightclub.
They kept up their friendship through the intervening years as Guinness learned the ropes in the horse racing industry, starting as a stable groom (“Basically, he shoveled shit,” laughed Lisa (who laughs often).
When Guinness invited Lisa to Lexington, Kentucky in 2009 for Keeneland Race Track’s opening weekend, that’s when their long friendship veered bacjk into the romantic lane. They were married in December, 2010 and now have two children; Olivia, 8 and Tripp, who turns 5 next week.
Tripp is named after his father, and short for Eugene Joseph McGuinness McFadden III.
What a name!
Lisa’s father Fred Kukulus was certainly happy about his daughter’s rekindled romance with Guinness. He recalls saying to his daughter while she was living in Reno, “Are you crazy? You’re going through all these boyfriends, getting disappointed by every one, and this guy still cares for you so much.”
Fred describes his son-in-law as a perfect gentleman. “He even asked me for her hand in marriage.”
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Country House was bred in Kentucky by late owner Joseph “Jerry” Shields, who had planned to sell Country House at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale before nephew McFadden and bloodstock agent Alex Solis II asked him to keep the colt.”
When Uncle Jerry passed away in 2018, ownership of the horse transferred 50-50 to his widow Maury and his nephew.
As Lisa explained, Guinness’s mother passed away when he was very young and his aunt Maury has been a like a mother to him, so it was a logical arrangement.
After Country House “broke his maiden” (won his first race) at Gulfstream Park in January, Guinness started getting a lot of calls to buy the horse.
“I told him not to sell. Don’t sell any of it,” said Lisa.
But Uncle Jerry had passed on a cautious maxim to his nephew, which was something to the effect of, “I should never own horses this valuable.”
So Guinness ended up splitting the difference. The family retained majority ownership while selling a stake to LNJ Foxwoods (the Roth family).
When not otherwise winning the Derby, Guinness and Lisa co-own Blackwood Stables in Versailles, Kentucky, where they break and train thoroughbreds.
Jill Norton employed Lisa for many years at Nik ‘N Willies in Mammoth, and is just tickled pink over the Derby outcome.
“She’s just a really fun, lighthearted person,” Norton says of McFadden, ranking her right near the top of all the employees she ever had. “And she was a hard-worker … I’m really happy that she’s living the fairy tale. I love seeing kids who worked for me flourishing and being successful.”
From Guinness McFadden in the Courier-Journal: “I don’t win the Derby. I don’t know anyone that’s won the Derby. This isn’t something that happens to people that I know. So no, this is not anything I ever expected to happen.”
*On Tuesday, it was announced that Country House had fallen ill (nothing serious) and would not vie for the Triple Crown by racing in the Preakness Stakes next week.