Kentucky Derby winner Country House out of the Preakness

A star-crossed 2019 Triple Crown campaign took another massive blow Tuesday with the news that Kentucky Derby winner-by-disqualification Country House will not run in the Preakness May 18.

The Daily Racing Form quoted Country House trainer Bill Mott as saying the colt “developed a little bit of a cough this morning.” “His appetite is good,” Mott said. “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.”

Country House’s defection comes a day after the owner of disqualified Derby winner Maximum Security said that horse also would skip the Preakness. Gary West said on the “Today Show” that he doesn’t believe in running a horse twice in two weeks, and with the chance at a Triple Crown gone there was no reason to enter Maximum Security.

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That deprived fans of a Country House-Maximum Security rematch, with the latter having a shot at redemption and to prove he is the best 3-year-old in the nation after being controversially DQ’d in the Derby. But now the Derby winner is out as well, which will all but destroy mainstream interest in the rest of the Triple Crown campaign.

If you thought the DQ of Maximum Security merited skepticism and scrutiny, prepare for more with this decision by Mott.

Is Country House really getting sick, or is this simply a cover for what the trainer wanted to do in the first place? Mott made it clear Sunday morning that he really didn’t want to run Country House in the Preakness, but felt pressure to do so for the Triple Crown quest and the overall good of the sport.

“You get shamed into it,” Mott said. “If you don’t, it’s, ‘You got no balls,’ and ‘What’s wrong with the horse?’ Having the Derby winner, you’re pretty much forced to go on to the Preakness.”

Country House had raced extensively for a modern 3-year-old thoroughbred to this point. He has raced monthly — a maiden race in January, the Risen Star Stakes in February, the Louisiana Derby in March, the Arkansas Derby in April and then the Kentucky Derby.

After that schedule, the normal Mott plan would be to run Country House in the Belmont in June. Perhaps the colt’s cough will have cleared up by then.

The Kentucky Derby winner has not missed the Preakness since 1996, when Grindstone suffered a slight knee injury in the Derby.

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