BALTIMORE (AP) — War of Will bounced back by a rocky ride in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, holding off a field that included a riderless horse that threw his jockey from the gate and kept running.
Trainer Mark Casse got his first Triple Crown victory, with War Will unfazed starting from the inside No. 1 place position for the second consecutive race. War of Will suffered a rough trip and was interfered with at the Kentucky Derby, which resulted in first-place finisher Maximum Security being disqualified.
Casse was just thankful War of Will didn’t return at the Derby, which could’ve been a multihorse catastrophe.
“That is even I think likely more special given everything that we have been through,” Casse said. “I am not even calling it redemption. I didn’t feel like that he got his fair shot, and that’s all I wanted — a fair shot. And he showed what he had today.”
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 ended the race and also did an additional 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 wasn’t behaving nicely,” said Velazquez, who added he’s fine and wouldn’t seek out medical care. “When the doors opened, I had been off right from the beginning and he sort of jumped and I had my feet out sideways and I lost my balance and went outside.”
War of Will made a movement round the last turn directed by jockey Tyler Gaffalione and did not relent down the stretch. Overdue addition Everfast came in Owendale and second thirdparty. Casse, 58, entered a horse in the Preakness for the fifth time and came closest two years ago when Classic Empire finished next.
“I am just pleased for Mark to receive his first Classic win,” Gaffalione said. “Very happy for your horse. He deserved it more. He is so special.”
Additionally, it is a breakthrough for Gaffalione, who has become something of a rising superstar since being named top apprentice rider in 2015. Gaffalione, 24, was aboard War of Will for the colt’s sixth consecutive race and came away with the biggest success of his young career.
“It really has not even hit me yet,” he explained. “I can not even put it into words.
Bob Baffert-trained Improbable was defeated as the preferred for its 2nd consecutive Triple Crown race. Improbable finished sixth in the 13-horse field that was the biggest at the Preakness since 2011.
It was the very first Preakness run without the Kentucky Derby winner since 1996 — now without the horse that crossed the finish line and the long-shot Country House who was raised to first following Maximum Security was disqualified for interference. Return to 1951 for the previous 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 deaths at Santa Anita Park over a three-month span, there was another in coaching Friday, and 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 Marylandthe Stronach Group which owns the trail — and also Santa Anita — is headquartered in an ongoing quarrel with local politicians across the future of their Preakness being at historical but aging Pimlico or the owners’ favorite Laurel Park about 30 miles south. More than 6,000 grandstand seats were cordoned off since they were deemed dangerous, and a water main break disrupted preparations for the event and left a lack of water on race day.
All around the nation, horse racing is fending off a threat to the very existence in the kind of legalized sports betting. Yet the Maryland Jockey Club reported a record attendance and amount bet on Black-Eyed Susan Day on Friday.
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