BALTIMORE (AP) — War of Will bounced back from a rocky ride in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, holding off a field that included a riderless horse that drove his jockey from the gate and kept running.
Trainer Mark Casse acquired his first Triple Crown victory, with War of Will unfazed starting from the inner No. 1 post position for the second consecutive race. War of Will endured a rough trip and was interfered with in the Kentucky Derby, which led to first-place finisher Maximum Security being disqualified.
Casse was just thankful War of Will didn’t return at the Derby, which could have turned into a multihorse catastrophe.
„That is even I think likely more particular given everything that we’ve been through,“ Casse said. „I’m not calling it redemption. I didn’t feel like that he got his fair shot, and that’s all I desired — a fair shot. And he showed what he had now.“
War of Will was 6/1 to win the race.
Bodexpress threw Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez out of the starting gate but still finished the race and did an extra lap around the Pimlico track. An outrider tried to swoop in on top of the stretch and corral Bodexpress, but the horse sped up and passed a few competitors close to the finish line — and kept going. Technically, Bodexpress gets a did-not-finish.
„He was not behaving nicely,“ said Velazquez, who added he’s fine and would not seek medical attention. „Once the doors opened, I had been off right from the start and he kind of jumped sideways, and that I had my feet out and I lost my balance and then went out.“
War Will made a movement round the final turn directed by jockey Tyler Gaffalione and did not relent down the stretch. Addition Everfast came in Owendale and second third. Casse, 58, entered a horse in the Preakness for the fifth time and came closest two years back when Classic Empire ended second.
„I’m just pleased for Mark to get his first Classic win,“ Gaffalione explained. „pleased for your horse. He deserved it more. He’s so unique.“
Additionally, it is a breakthrough for Gaffalione, that has become something of a rising superstar since being called top apprentice riders in 2015. Gaffalione, 24, was aboard War of Will for the colt’s sixth successive race and came away with the biggest victory of his young career.
„It really hasn’t even hit me yet,“ he explained. „I can’t even put it into words.
Bob Baffert-trained Improbable was beaten as the favorite for the 2nd successive Triple Crown race. Improbable finished sixth in the 13-horse field that was the largest at the Preakness since 2011.
It was the first Preakness run without the Kentucky Derby winner since 1996 — now without the horse which crossed the finish line and the long-shot Country House that was raised to first after Maximum Security was disqualified for interference. Return to 1951 for the last time that the Preakness was run with no top four finishers in the Derby.
The race has been run at a time for horse racing.
After 23 horse fatalities at Santa Anita Park over a three-month span, there was another in coaching Friday, and also a filly collapsed and died after a race at Pimlico on Friday. Then there was the disqualification of Maximum Security in Churchill Downs and the ensuing lawsuit filed by owners Gary and Mary West and suspension handed down to jockey Luis Saez.
Back in Maryland, the Stronach Group that owns the track — along with Santa Anita — is headquartered in an ongoing quarrel with local politicians over the future of their Preakness being at historical but aging Pimlico or the owners‘ favorite Laurel Park about 30 miles south. Over 6,000 grandstand seats were cordoned off since they were deemed unsafe, and also a water main break disrupted preparations for case and left a lack of water on race day.
All around the nation, horse racing is fending off a threat to its existence in the kind of legalized sports betting. Yet the Maryland Jockey Club reported that a record attendance and amount wager on Black-Eyed Susan Day on Friday.
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