War of Will wins 144th Preakness
War of Will rose victorious Saturday night in the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes amongst the largest field of horses the second jewel of the Triple Crown has seen since 2011.
Baltimore, Maryland saw 13 horses take the track for the prestigious race, nine of which were new to the field and did not run in the Kentucky Derby just two weeks prior.
The Derby is the first race in a three-part string of races, followed by the Preakness, that looks to try and award a “Triple Crown” victor. If a horse can win those two races accompanied by the Belmont Stakes in early June, he or she will win the title. War of Will and the field however did not have the opportunity to join just the 13 horses to do so in the Triple Crown’s 144-year history.
Maximum Security, who initially won the Derby but was later disqualified after lane impedance out of the gate and objection, did not attend the Preakness, nor did the Derby’s real winner, Country House. This left just four Derby runners in the Preakness, including the race’s favorite, Improbable.
Improbable held 5-2 odds up until an hour before the race before it dropped to 2-1. He came in with the acclaimed trainer/jockey duo of Bob Baffert and Mike Smith, with Baffert going for his eighth Preakness win.
Baltimore and the state of Maryland may have also had a little bias to a particular horse, Alwaysmining, as trainer Kelly Rubley was trying to become the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race with a horse bred and trained in Maryland. Alwaysmining entered the Preakness with 6-1 odds.
Another Derby runner, Bodexpress, saw John Velazquez suit up as his jockey, and Joel Rosario joined the field as he mounted Everfast. Velazquez is famous for riding in the Derby with Always Dreaming and winning the Breeder Cup with English Channel, while Rosario is most known for racing horses like Animal Kingdom and Orb in the Kentucky Derby, as well as other high place finishers around the world in Accelerate, Mind Your Biscuits and Practical Joke. Bodexpress came into the race with 16-1 odds, and Everfast entered with 22-1 odds.
As the race started, and for a good chunk of it, the eyes of viewers were not on the lead pack of horses. Just seconds before the gates opened for the start of the race, Bodexpress seemed to get uneasy and nervous in his stall, kicking up some commotion, and as the gates opened, he bucked Velazquez off his back.
Although immediately disqualified, Bodexpress was determined to finish the race and ran the entire race without a jockey, ultimately finishing 11th if he was eligible.
War of Will drew the unfavorable No. 1 gate spot, but he rode the rails to jump back into the mix and kicked down into better position in the final stretch to hold off Everfast charging from the outside. War of Will sneaked his way by a few horses on his quest back off the rails and did not ride them again once he got into the pack off the first turn.
Tyler Gaffalione was able to kick War of Will into a high charge sprint down the stretch to claim the victory just past Everfast and third place finisher Owendale (8-1). The favorite, Improbable, finished sixth, and Maryland’s Alwaysmining finished 11th.
The final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, will be held June 8 in New York, and it will also feature four Preakness racers. Gaffalione will ride War of Will, looking to claim two of the three crown jewels, while Everfast gets another chance to edge him out as he will also take the field. Laughing Fox, who finished just outside the money in fifth at the Preakness, will be there along with Bodexpress, who hopes to have a jockey for this race.
Rosario is currently listed as eligible to ride three horses in the field, those being Everfast, Baffert’s Game Winner, and Sir Winston. The decision of the horse he will mount will be decided closer to race day.
Velazquez will also get another shot at an acclaimed race this year, but this time on Intrepid Heart. Some more well-known jockeys will also enter the field, as Junior Alvarado will ride Tax and Jose Ortiz will ride Tacitus.