A recurring problem in horse racing is most sports fans completely losing interest in the Belmont Stakes because the horse that won the Kentucky Derby came up short in the Preakness, thereby rendering the Belmont irrelevant to those who care only about witnessing a Triple Crown.
This year, the sport decided to save those folks some time and just pull the Derby winner out of the Preakness so they can watch the NBA playoffs or a baseball game instead and start the not-caring-about-horse-racing three weeks early.
Country House, who won the Derby after Maximum Security was disqualified for racing through traffic like a New York City cab driver, has been scratched from the Preakness field after developing a cough.
Trainer Bill Mott told the Daily Racing Form of the horse’s malady Tuesday.
“He developed a little bit of a cough this morning,” Mott said. “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. 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.”
Maximum Security, meanwhile, was spared running the Preakness after his trainers took their ball and went home, pulling their horse out of the race with the Triple Crown no longer on the table.
Gary West, Maximum Security’s trainer, told NBC’s “Today” show Monday, “There’s no Triple Crown on the line for us and no reason to run a horse back in two weeks when you don’t have to.”
Maximum Security’s owner Gary West explains why the horse will not run in the Preakness pic.twitter.com/7ByO3p9Zsc
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) May 6, 2019
He also insisted that his jockey’s tactics weren’t worthy of disqualification and griped about the size of the Derby field.
“I obviously saw the horse move out,” West said. “But in the Kentucky Derby where you have 20 horses, and you shouldn’t have 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs, because they are a greedy organization, has , rather than 14 like you have in Kentucky Oaks, the Breeders Cup, every other race in America, just because they can make more money they’re willing to risk horses’ and humans’ lives. I am not a fan of that. Every Kentucky Derby you could shut down two, three, four horses because it’s like a rodeo out there.”
While West has a point — horse tracks have carrying capacities just like auto racing does, and anyone who’s watched a 30-car pileup in a NASCAR restrictor plate race knows what happens when the laws of physics meet a lot of heavy, fast-moving objects — the fact remains that jockey Luis Saez and Maximum Security engaged in an illegal maneuver.
The race report even pointed out that Maximum Security nearly collided with the heels of War of Will, and if two horses in a packed field had tripped over each other, the effects could have been catastrophic.
It was only the second disqualification in the history of the Kentucky Derby, and the first, in 1968, involved illicit medications used by the horse, not life-endangering tactics to horses and jockeys alike.
But all these are simply words to be bartered in the wake of a Saturday afternoon in the Bluegrass State before horse racing, thanks to a rogue equine virus, sees its all-too-brief May run in the public consciousness fade like a sporting Brigadoon once more.
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