Preakness probables watch: Country House connex leaning towards run

by May 6, 2019Breaking, Maryland, MD Racing, Triple Crown Trail

Trainer Bill Mott on Monday morning said he was “leaning toward” running adjudged Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Country House in the May 18 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico. The Hall of Famer said that, so far, he is seeing the right signs for running the Lookin At Lucky colt back in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown in two weeks.

“We’re leaning toward the Preakness, since he is the Derby winner and we don’t want to pooh-pooh the Triple Crown,” Mott said at Churchill Downs. “We want to support that. If he’s real good and continues to do well with no issues, not worn out, all those good things, we’ll keep pecking away and going in that direction. If there’s anything we don’t like as we get into the weekend or early next week, we won’t feel – I don’t feel – a lot of pressure to run him, and talking to the ownership group, I don’t think they’ll put on a lot of pressure, if I’m not happy with him for some reason.”

Country House, who crossed the finish line second but was awarded the victory upon the disqualification of Maximum Security from first to 17th for interference, walked the shedrow for a second day Monday morning and will walk again Tuesday before a possible return to the track Wednesday.

“We’ve had another race or two more than some of the horses,” Mott said. “He went three weeks, three weeks and now this is back in two weeks. It would be an ambitious schedule, to say the least. What I’ve noticed from training horses the last 40, 50 years is that sometimes horses look great coming out of a race, and maybe a week, 10 days later, then they’ll show you maybe they’re a little bit tired. I’m not saying that’s going to happen. I don’t know.”

After finishing fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2), Country House ran back in the Arkansas Derby (G1), finishing third behind Omaha Beach, the Kentucky Derby program favorite before being scratched because of a breathing obstruction. Country House, breaking from Post 18 in the 19-horse field, finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby.

Mott was asked if he felt pressure to have Country House in position to put in a top effort, whenever he runs back, because of the history-making circumstances that made his trainee the first horse awarded a Kentucky Derby victory upon disqualification of the first-place finisher for something that happened in the race. Dancer’s Image in 1968 is the only other first-place finisher to be disqualified from victory, that for a medication violation that surfaced in post-race drug testing and a decision that stood after a protracted court battle.

“Well, I’d always want him to put on a good performance,” Mott said. “But I know if we run in the Preakness, running back that soon, you’re taking a bigger risk of him not running well, just because of the timing.”

Mott said he personally would go to his New York base either later Monday or Tuesday and was contemplating driving rather than flying. Country House will stay at Churchill Downs before flying out next week.

Mott acknowledged that winning the Kentucky Derby for the first time was not what he had anticipated, giving the controversy over the stewards’ decision to disqualify Maximum Security.

“I just told [co-owner] Guinness [McFadden], ‘You know, a month from now, a year from now, 20 years from now, we’ll probably appreciate this more than we are able to do right now,’” Mott said.

Preakness contenders

HorseStatusLast out
Country HousePossibleWon Kentucky Derby via DQ
War of WillProbable8th in G1 Kentucky Derby
Bourbon WarProbable4th in G1 Florida Derby
BodexpressPossible14th in Kentucky Derby, moved up to 13th after DQ of winner
Mr. MoneyPossibleWon G3 Pat Day Mile on Kentucky Derby undercard
Code of HonorPossible3rd in Kentucky Derby, moved up to 2nd after DQ of winner
AlwaysminingProbableWon Federico Tesio S. at Laurel Park
AnothertwistafatePossible2nd in G3 Lexington at Keeneland
OwendalePossibleWon G3 Lexington
Laughing FoxProbableWon “win and you’re in” Oaklawn Invitational
SignalmanPossible3rd in G2 Blue Grass at Keeneland