War of Will wins Preakness Stakes; holds off riderless horse
BALTIMORE (AP) – War of Will bounced back from a bumpy 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 out of the gate and kept running.
Trainer Mark Casse got his first Triple Crown victory, with War of Will unfazed starting from the inside 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 go down in the Derby, which could’ve been a multi-horse catastrophe.
“This is even I think probably more special given everything that we’ve been through,” Casse said. “I’m not even calling it redemption. I didn’t feel like he got his fair shot, and that’s all I wanted – a fair shot. And he showed what he had today.”
Bodexpress threw Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez just 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 at the top of the stretch and corral Bodexpress, but the horse sped up and passed a few competitors near the finish line – and kept going. Technically, Bodexpress gets a did-not-finish.
“He wasn’t behaving well,” said Velazquez, who added he’s fine and would not seek medical attention. “When the doors opened, I was off right from the start and he kind of jumped sideways, and I had my feet out sideways and I lost my balance and went out.”
War of Will made a move around the final turn led by jockey Tyler Gaffalione and didn’t relent down the stretch. Hard-charging late addition Everfast came in second and Owendale third.
Casse, 58, entered a horse in the Preakness for the fifth time and came closest two years ago when Classic Empire finished second.
“I’m just very happy for Mark to get his first Classic win,” Gaffalione said. “Very happy for the horse. He deserved it more than anything. He’s so special.”
It’s also a breakthrough for Gaffalione, who has become something of a rising star 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 victory of his young career.
“It really hasn’t even hit me yet,” he said. “I can’t even put it into words.”