BALTIMORE, Md. — After a surprise disqualification at the Kentucky Derby, this year’s Triple Crown season has already been one for the history books. Now, Saturday’s Preakness Stakes will be historic in a completely different way.
For the first time since 1951, none of the top three finishers of the Kentucky Derby will be competing in the Preakness.
On May 7th, just three days after the Derby, trainer Bill Mott announced that winner Country House will not be competing in the second leg of the Triple Crown due to an illness.
Country House, a 65-1 long shot, was named the winner of the Kentucky Derby after the initial winner, Maximum Security, was disqualified for interference. The owners of Maximum Security filed an appeal to overturn the disqualification, but it was rejected. Now, they’ve filed a federal lawsuit and pulled Maximum Security from the Preakness.
“There’s no Triple Crown on the line for us, and there’s no reason to run a horse back in two weeks when you don’t have to,” the horse’s owner, Gary West, said during an appearance on NBC’s “Today.”
On the same day Country House was pulled from the Preakness, the trainer of the Derby’s second-place winner, Code of Honor, announced his horse also would not compete in the race.
The Derby’s de facto third-place finisher, Tacitus, will also not be at the Preakness. Interestingly enough, Tacitus is also trained by Mott, the same man who trains Derby winner County House. According to the Baltimore Sun Mott never intended to take Tacitus to the Preakness, regardless of the Derby’s outcome.
Improbable, the horse that finished fourth in the Derby, will be in the Preakness field on Saturday.
The Preakness, held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, is the second race of the Triple Crown series. The first race is the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, and the final race is the Belmont Stakes, in Elmont, New York.
The Triple Crown is one of the most legendary honors in the sporting world. It’s also rare — until American Pharoah achieved the feat in 2015, no horse had done it in 37 years.
For that reason, horses who win the Kentucky Derby almost always go on to compete in the Preakness in hopes of winning all three races.
The last time a Derby winner didn’t go on to compete in the Preakness was 1996, when Derby winner Grindstone was injured during the race and retired directly afterward.