Juddmonte Farms' Tacitus and Mrs. J. V. Shields Jr. et al.'s Country House have exited their Kentucky Derby (GI) efforts in good shape, trainer Bill Mott said on Sunday morning at Churchill Downs. While Tacitus, who was moved from fourth to third following the demotion of disqualified winner Maximum Security, is under consideration for the Belmont Stakes (GI) in five weeks, elevated victor Country House is naturally seriously looking at the second leg of the Triple Crown, Pimlico Race Course's Preakness Stakes (GI) in two weeks' time.
“I thought (Country House) had the effort in him and I was very surprised that he broke and was as close as he was early,” said Mott, who saddled his first Kentucky Derby starter in 1984 and got his first victory Saturday. “I would have thought it would have been the other way around with Tacitus up where Country House was and Country House in the back where Tacitus was—but that's why it's so interesting. You don't know what is going to happen.
“I really believe that the call that was made yesterday really shows the integrity of sport. It wasn't an easy call, but if they let that go yesterday, I think it would have been much more talked about. I don't know when the objection was lodged. I spoke to Jose (Ortiz), who told me that he thought for sure that (Maximum Security) would come down and Jose being behind them had the best view of all. I sent Flavien (Prat) to the phone to get in there and talk to (the stewards). It was mostly based on what Jose said. Then, of course, I had to look at the films like everyone else.
“I'm thrilled with (Country House) and I'm happy for everyone who has worked with the horse and I think they deserved the win. It's just such an unusual way to have to go to the winner's circle and win a Kentucky Derby. This Kentucky Derby will be talked about for a long time, up there with Shoemaker standing up at the sixteenth pole (in 1957 on Gallant Man). It's one of those things that's not going to go away. We're going to take the win and hopefully we come back and Country House runs big in the future, whatever race it may be—whether it's the Preakness, Belmont, Travers—whatever it is. You hope he continues to show the quality horse that he is.
“The discussion (about the Preakness) is going to start in the next day or two, I'm sure,” Mott said. “People want to see the Derby winner in the Preakness. Certainly, for Country House, there's some pressure to go. With Tacitus, there isn't any and we are well-suited with him to go to the Belmont.”
If Country House competes in the Preakness (May 18), it will be his fourth race in eight weeks' time, following the Louisiana Derby (March 23), Arkansas Derby (April 13) and yesterday's Kentucky Derby.
“(With Country House) we're talking about a horse who has had quite a few races in a short period of time, if he runs in the Preakness. It may compromise his chances a bit and it's not a normal situation to run so often, but the Triple Crown is not a normal situation. It never has been and I don't think they should space them out any more. The challenge of the Triple Crown is that it's three races really close together and it takes a champion. It takes a Justify to win those kinds of races.
“I saw Jason (Servis) as we crossed the track leaving the tunnel after the race,” Mott concluded. “He was very gracious and said congratulations. I said I'm sorry it happened this way. Jason is a professional and I'm sure he's a great horseman. I'm sure he feels terrible, but it is what it is.”
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