Gary Barber's War of Will appeared to get the worst of it when stewards disqualified Maximum Security from first to 17th on May 4 in an unprecedented development in the 145-year history of the Run for the Roses. In contrast, the colt that was seemingly star-crossed in the Derby had everything go his way in the Preakness during a ground-saving trip under Gaffalione that unfolded almost magically.
“He’s got so much heart,” said Gaffalione. “We always knew he had the ability. We just had to get a little bit lucky, and today was our day.”
It also could have been argued that the Derby was a lucky day for the son of War Front in that he came perilously close to becoming entangled with Maximum Security with a cavalry of horses behind them in a 19-horse field at Churchill Downs. Luis Saez, who rode Maximum Security, was suspended for 15 days and is currently appealing.
Country House, elevated to first in the Derby, did not go on to the Preakness, the first time the Derby winner was absent since knee chips sidelined Grindstone in 1996. Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who conditions Country House, said his 3-year-old developed a cough. Country House also is not under consideration for the June 8 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at Belmont Park in New York.
Casse never lost sight of War of Will’s Derby effort in the days following the controversial finish.
“I was absolutely fine because I thought I was lucky,” Casse said. “I was the luckiest guy and the only one luckier was horse racing because we were this close to never seeing him again.”
Stonestreet Lexington Stakes winner Owendale finished a nose behind Everfast in third. Pacesetter Warrior’s Charge, supplemented for $150,000, faded to fourth.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was foiled in his bid to secure a record-breaking eighth Preakness triumph when favored Improbable lacked punch and finished sixth. Bodexpress dumped jockey John Velazquez at the start. Velazquez was uninjured.
War of Will covered the 1 3/16-mile distance in 1:54.34.