Kentucky Derby winner Country House's next race plans pend

May 05, 2019 10:05am
Kentucky Derby winner Country House's next race plans pend
Photo: Jonathan Lintner

When Country House and Tacitus hit the wire Saturday in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bill Mott’s first thought was, “Boy, both of these horses will be tough in the Belmont.”

But wheels will begin turning Sunday on the decision of whether to bring back Country House — placed atop the running order following Maximum Security’s controversial disqualification — in the second leg of the Triple Crown series.

The Preakness Stakes runs May 18 at Pimlico Racecourse, and a Kentucky Derby winner hasn't skipped that race since Grindstone retired five days after the 1996 Derby.

“It’s like, if you don’t, you’ve got no balls, and what’s wrong with the horse, and how can you not go to the Preakness?” Mott said. “That’s all part of it. You have an obligation to go. Everyone wants to see the Derby winner in the Preakness.”

Mott trains Country House, a son of Lookin At Lucky, for a partnership of Mrs. J.V. Shields Jr., E.J.M. McFadden Jr. and LNJ Foxwoods. He said connections as of Sunday morning hadn’t discussed the colt’s future yet — not after the whirlwind of hitting the wire second, but yet winning America’s greatest race.

A clustered schedule for Country House will be a consideration. After breaking his maiden Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park, Country House finished second in the Risen Star (G2), then ran three times in six weeks competing in the Louisiana Derby (G2), Arkansas Derby (G1) and finally the Kentucky Derby.

“Now we’re talking about a horse having had quite a few races,” Mott said. “If we run back in the Preakness and maybe hit the board, maybe you don’t, maybe you win — but it probably compromises his chances a little bit to win the Belmont.”

The good news so far: Country House and Tacitus, who was placed third, both exited the Derby in fine shape. The latter will point to the Belmont Stakes.

Country House started his Sunday by walking the shed row following close inspection from Kenny McCarthy, Mott’s Churchill Downs-based assistant. The Hall of Fame trainer met with reporters for more than 20 minutes. Then Country House came out of the barn to pose and walk in front of an assembled crowd, kept calm thanks to a steady diet of carrots and mints.

Mott figured that should Country House go on, he will do the bulk of his Preakness training at Churchill Downs before shipping in the week of the race.

As those plans form, conversation will continue stirring about the stewards’ call to place Maximum Security 17th after his front-running effort. Jockey Luis Saez — who actually rode Security in his maiden win — said Maximum Security may have shied away from crowd noise near the quarter pole, rolling off the rail and nearly into his rivals, including War of Will and Long Range Toddy.

“To put this in perspective,” Mott said, “it was a difficult decision because it was the Kentucky Derby. I don’t think it would have been a difficult decision if it had been the first race on the card.”

The trainer added: “It’s hard not to respect the ability of the horse. It’s just he didn’t keep a straight course.”


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