Five Key Takeaways from Preakness Stakes Day

Trainer Mark Casse leads Tyler Gaffalione and War of Will to the winner's circle after the duo captured the 2019 Preakness Stakes on May 18. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from Preakness Stakes Day on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course:

WARMUP CRITICAL: Trainer Mark Casse thought War of Will might have been a bit too keyed up before the start of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, so he made it a point to call jockey Tyler Gaffalione the day before the Preakness to discuss how he wanted the warmup to go. “I just want you to jog him and let him relax,” Casse said of his instructions to his 24-year-old rider. Gaffalione followed orders and noted that the colt was more relaxed than in previous starts. The reward? His mount packed an overpowering punch in a 1 ¼-length victory against Everfast.

LAST-MINUTE STARTER: Trainer Dale Romans made a last-minute decision to enter Everfast in the Preakness in a move that, on paper, appeared to make little sense. Everfast had not been a major player in any of his three previous races, finishing eighth in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes, ninth in the Xpressbet Florida Derby and fifth in the Pat Day Mile Stakes Presented by LG and E and KU as part of the Kentucky Derby undercard. Romans’ seemingly wild shot was rewarded when Everfast closed with a rush to be second in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown for jockey Joel Rosario. “We have a great shot at the Belmont,” Rosario said. 

ON THE RISE: Brad Cox, a trainer whose fortunes are steadily rising, saddled his first two Preakness starters in Owendale and Warrior’s Charge. They acquitted themselves well in finishing third and fourth, respectively. Warrior’s Charge represented a significant gamble because he was supplemented to the middle leg of the Triple Crown for $150,000 and set a torrid pace before grudgingly yielding. “Warrior’s Charge fought incredibly hard. He’s a nice horse,” Cox said. “I mean :22, :46, 1:10 2/5 going a mile and three-sixteenths, he’s a good horse. We’ll give him plenty of time to recover.”

Bill Mott (Coady Photography)

GEARING UP: Tacitus, declared the third-place finisher in the Derby after stewards disqualified Maximum Security and dropped him to 17th, went through his first formal workout on Saturday at Belmont Park in preparation for the June 8 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. He drilled in company with stablemate Multiplier, a graded stakes winner. They were each timed in 48.57 seconds for four furlongs. “It all went smoothly,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. “It was his first breeze back and exactly what we wanted.”

FUTURE LOCALE?: The future location of the Preakness remains uncertain as The Stronach Group and officials from the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore continue to debate what is best. The only certainty appears to be that Pimlico Race Course will not be able to host the middle jewel of the Triple Crown all that much longer. A water main break outside the track required emergency repairs and approximately 7,000 grandstand seats were closed due to “structural weakness.” An independent economic study estimated that it will cost $424 million to restore Pimlico. Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group’s Racing and Gaming Division, believes the issues at Pimlico are overwhelming. “You can spend millions of dollars and never see anything (in return) or even make a dent in the stuff that’s here,” Ritvo said.

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