For the 1 3/16-mile classic, the Bill Mott-trained Riley Tucker will represent the nation’s leading owner by progeny earnings under the distinctive light blue and yellow silks.
In a Hall of Fame career that began with his first winner at age 15 in 1968, Mott will only be sending out his second horse in the second leg of the Triple Crown when Riley Tucker is saddled in the infield at Pimlico May 17.
While the dark bay or brown son of first-crop sire Harlan’s Holiday has only a maiden victory from seven starts to his credit in the win column, he has danced around the edges at some of the major races along the Triple Crown trail and has definitely earned his spot in the conversation.
Bred in Kentucky by Formal Gold, Riley Tucker was a $375,000 sale yearling from the Gainesway consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale during the “New Sire Showcase.” Harlan’s Holiday, the beaten favorite in the 2002 Kentucky Derby, was fourth in the Preakness, then went on to win the Donn Handicap (gr. I) and run second in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) as a 4-year-old.
Riley Tucker is out of the Bold Ruckus mare My Sweet Country. My Sweet Country is a half-sister to three-time graded winner Hey Hazel, who won the Molly Pitcher Handicap (gr. II) back in 1994.
My Sweet Country is the dam of two other stakes winners, Patriot Love and Deputy Country. Patriot Love, by With Approval, was second in the 12-furlong Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine in 1998, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. Deputy Country, a son of Silver Deputy, won 10 stakes while racing in western Canada
On the track, he came to the game quickly, breaking his maiden first time out at Belmont Park by six lengths last July 20. In his second start, he was no match for Kodiak Kowboy—but no one was—in upstate New York in the Saratoga Special (gr. II). Riley Tucker finished up his juvenile campaign losing a photo to Wicked Style in the one-mile Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III) Sept. 1 on Polytrack. Wicked Style would go on to capture the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) the next month over Keeneland’s Polytrack layout.
After more than a five-month layoff, Riley Tucker was pitched ambitiously at the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn and was caught in the wake of Denis of Cork’s runaway effort. That was followed by a runner-up effort over a mile at Fair Grounds in mid-March.
Shipped back to Keeneland, Riley Tucker was beaten only a half-length in the 1 1/16-mile Central Bank Translyvania Stakes (gr. III), then came back two weeks later against stiffer competition and ran third to Behindatthebar and Samba Rooster in the 8.5-furlong Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II). Behindatthebar will join Riley Tucker in the Preakness while Samba Rooster just missed in a three-horse photo May 10 in the $400,000 Lone Star Derby (gr. III).