Baltimore, Maryland: War of Will’s trainer, Mark Casse, didn’t consider Saturday’s Preakness Stakes win some form of redemption. He only wanted “a fair shot” after the colt was involved in a few controversial bumps only two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby.
War of Will certainly got that, prevailing with a determined run up the rail at Pimlico. Under jockey Tyler Gaffalione, the son of War Front finished 1 3/16 miles in a final time of 1:54.34.
“He showed what he had today,” Casse said.
And with a familiar sort of trip.
War of Will again broke from the rail, but he didn’t hustle up to avoid the type of traffic faced in the Derby. When it came time to make a move through the far turn, the rail more than opened, allowing Gary Barber’s multiple graded stakes winner through.
From there, they were running for second.
— XBTV (@WatchXBTV) May 18, 2019
Longshot Everfast hit the wire next Owendale third. The race favorite, Improbable, missed the board in a field of 13 for the Triple Crown series’ second leg.
War of Will, who ran mid-pack in the early going, was set up by a three-wide pace duel into the first turn with Warrior’s Charge, Market King and Anothertwistafate spread across the track. On the inside, Warrior’s Charge eventually tired after fractions of 22.50, 46.16 and 1:10.56, but he left the inside open for War of Will’s move to the front.
The winner wound up seventh at Churchill Downs. Before that, he nearly missed his trip to the Derby with more trouble, taking a bad step only strides from the gate in the Louisiana Derby (G2).
To open his campaign, the former turf runner War of Will won Fair Grounds’ Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) in succession to establish himself on the Triple Crown trail.
Now, what about the June 8 Belmont Stakes?
“I would think probably so,” Casse said, though Barber wasn’t on hand at the Preakness.
Bodexpress, the maiden in Saturday’s field, tossed jockey John Velazquez when rearing at the start. The rider returned to his feet, though the action resulted in an inquiry settled much faster than in that historic Derby.
For the first time since 1996, the Kentucky Derby winner didn’t run in the Preakness — Country House is dealing with a minor illness — so there will be no Triple Crown winner this year.
The controversial Derby had a major effect on the Preakness. Maximum Security’s debated disqualification made Country House the de facto winner. Maximum Security’s jockey, Luis Saez, was later suspended for 15 race days after stewards determined the horse drifted out of the running lane and impeded other horses.
Saez is appealing Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s decision. If the suspension is upheld, Maximum Security would also miss the Belmont Stakes next month.
Good or bad, the Kentucky Derby debacle stirred up more national attention on horse racing. But the Preakness was mostly about the intrigue factor. In the end, War of Will was the beneficiary of a race lacking star power.
Everfast finished second and Owendale took third. Improbable, the 5-2 favorite trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, finished far back.
Bodexpress runs Preakness Stakes without jockey John Velazquez
At the start of the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes, one horse lost its jockey as the field exploded from the gates.
John Velazquez was thrown from Bodexpress, the No. 9 horse, moments after the gates opened. Despite losing its rider, the horse continued to charge down the outside of the track as Velazquez lifted himself off the track just outside the gates. He wasn’t injured.
“He wasn’t behaving well in the gate,” Velazquez said in an interview on NBC. “He got me against the wall. Obviously, when the doors opened, I was (thrust) off. I lost my balance, and went off. I’m disappointed. To come into a big race like this. Some things like this happen with horses. But I’m just disappointed.”
Bodexpress stayed with the field the entire race. One outrider tried to chase down Bodexpress as he entered the stretch run just behind the pack, but they couldn’t catch the thoroughbred as he charged toward the finish line with the rest of the field.
Bodexpress tossed his jockey right out of the gate at Preakness. Jockey is ok. Horse kept running pic.twitter.com/n9VdWrmbim
— Jayne Miller (@jemillerwbal) May 18, 2019
Even after War of Will won the race, Bodexpress continued around the track and evaded outriders trying to corral him. Eventually, an outrider did catch up to him and he appeared OK on the TV coverage as he trotted off the track.
Image: War of Will, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, crosses the finish line first to win the Preakness Stakes.