Kentucky Derby winner Country House will not run in the Preakness Stakes on May 18 at Pimlico, trainer Bill Mott said Tuesday, after Country House started to show signs of becoming ill at Churchill Downs, where he has remained following his Derby victory on Saturday.
“He developed a little bit of a cough this morning,” Mott said by telephone. “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 said. “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 crossed the wire second in the Derby but was elevated to first following the disqualification of Maximum Security, who finished first but was ruled by the Churchill Downs stewards to have interfered with several rivals when he ducked out suddenly at the five-sixteenths pole.
The Derby was the second victory for Country House in seven starts, his only prior win against maidens at Gulfstream in January. He subsequently was second in the Risen Star, fourth in the Louisiana Derby, and third in the Arkansas Derby before the Kentucky Derby. He was a 65-1 shot, the second-longest shot to ever win the Derby in its 145 years.
Country House is the fourth Derby winner in the past four decades to miss the Preakness. Grindstone, who won the 1996 Derby, was injured in the race and never ran again. Spend a Buck in 1985 was kept out of the Preakness to shoot for, and win, a lucrative bonus tied to the Jersey Derby at Garden State Park. Gato Del Sol, who won in 1982, bypassed the race because his trainer, Eddie Gregson, did not want to run him back in two weeks, so he awaited the Belmont.
His defection means there will be no Triple Crown bid this year. The Triple Crown has been swept twice this decade, by American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify last year. The Triple Crown has been swept 13 times.
As of Tuesday, the prospective Preakness field stood at 10, with just three horses from the Derby – Improbable (officially fourth after the disqualification), War of Will (seventh), and Bodexpress (13th)—and seven who were not in the Derby – Alwaysmining, Anothertwistafate, Bourbon War, Laughing Fox, Mr. Money, Owendale, and Signalman.
If the current, expected Preakness field holds, it will mark the first time since 1951 that the first four across the line in the Derby did not run back in the Preakness.
Maximum Security, who was placed 17th after the disqualification, was ruled out of the Preakness on Monday by his trainer, Jason Servis.
On Tuesday, Code of Honor, who was elevated from third to second in the Derby on the disqualification, also was taken out of consideration for the Preakness by his trainer, Shug McGaughey, who said he would point for a summer campaign that he hopes includes the Travers at Saratoga.
“That would be a nice thought,” McGaughey said Tuesday at Belmont Park. “I want to give him a chance. He’s still young.”
Code of Honor was foaled on May 23, 2016, so he hasn’t had his actual third birthday yet. Country House was born on May 8, so his actual third birthday is Wednesday. For record-keeping purposes, all foals of 2016 turned 3 in Jan. 1.
Code of Honor arrived back at Belmont on Monday and was scheduled to go back under tack on Wednesday.
McGaughey said the Dwyer on July 6 at Belmont is likely the next target.
Mott said that the defection of Country House would not alter the plans of Tacitus, who crossed the wire fourth in the Derby but then was moved to third. He will await the Belmont, the final leg of the Triple Crown, on June 8.
Jose Ortiz, who rode Tacitus in the Derby, on Tuesday was announced by trainer Blaine Wright as the Preakness rider for Anothertwistafate.
Anothertwistafate most recently finished second in the Lexington Stakes on April 13 at Keeneland behind Owendale, who also is bound for the Preakness. Javier Castellano rode him that day for the first time, replacing his initial rider, Juan Hernandez, who was aboard Anothertwistafate when he finished second to Cutting Humor in the Sunland Park Derby and when he won the El Camino Real Derby.
The El Camino Real Derby, on Feb. 16 at Golden Gate Fields, offered a fees-paid berth toward the Preakness, similar to the Breeders’ Cup’s “Win and You’re In” program.
Anothertwistafate was intended for the Kentucky Derby, but after the Lexington he was outside the top 20 in terms of points. Rather than hope to get in, and even if that happened run him back in three weeks for the second straight time, Wright and owner Peter Redekop decided to take Anothertwistafate back to Golden Gate to prepare for the Preakness. He worked there on Saturday, going five furlongs in 1:01.80 on the all-weather surface.
—additional reporting by David Grening and Marty McGee
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.