“He developed a little bit of a cough this morning,” trainer Bill Mott told the Daily Racing Form on Tuesday. “His appetite is good. He doesn’t have a fever. But he’s coughing. We drew blood. He’s acting like he’s going to get sick. He’s off the training list, and if he’s off the training list, he’s off the Preakness list.”
“It’s probably a little viral thing,” Mott added. “Hopefully it doesn’t develop into anything serious. Usually when something like this happens, a horse misses a couple weeks of training. He’s not seriously sick right now. But he’s showing indications that something is going on.”
Country House has remained at Churchill Downs in Louisville since Saturday’s race, which he won as a 65-1 long shot after wire-to-wire leader Maximum Security was disqualified for impeding the progress of other horses. Mott said his first thought immediately after Saturday’s race, when he thought Country House had finished second, was to save the horse for the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown, on June 8. But the decision to award the Derby to Country House forced him to consider running the horse at Pimlico.
“Having the Derby winner, you’re pretty much forced to go into the Preakness,” Mott said Sunday.
Mott told the New York Times on Tuesday that Country House could still run in the Belmont Stakes.
It is rare for the Derby winner to skip the Preakness. Grindstone was retired just five days after his 1996 Kentucky Derby victory after knee chips were discovered in his leg, becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner since 1926 to be retired immediately following the victory. In 1985, Kentucky Derby champion Spend a Buck skipped the Preakness to compete for a $2 million bonus at the newly reopened Garden State Park in New Jersey. Three years earlier, Gato Del Sol’s handlers decided that the two-week span between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes was too short for the horse to overcome, and the unlikely winner at Churchill Downs was held out until the Belmont Stakes. He finished second, 14 lengths back.
As of Tuesday, only three horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby have been announced as running in the Preakness: Improbable (fourth), War of Will (seventh) and Bodexpress (13th). On Monday, Maximum Security owner Gary West said his horse would not be heading to Pimlico. Second-place Code of Honor also will skip the Preakness.
The absence of a Triple Crown possibility has historically depressed TV ratings for and betting on the next race in the series. With no horse gunning for the Triple Crown in 2016, one year after American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, that year’s Belmont Stakes was the lowest-rated and least-watched since 2010, and the total amount bet on the race fell from $82.4 million to $52.2 million. Attendance also fell, from 90,000 to 60,114.
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