The weather cooperated and so did the Pimlico dirt and turf courses. The tracks played fair. The dirt was fast, but honest. While the facility appears dated, and even somewhat neglected, there is no denying the historic and electric atmosphere Pimlico and the Preakness produces.
The first stake on the day, the Sir Barton went to Todd Pletcher’s returnee King for a Day. He stalked the pace under John Velazquez and drew away with relative ease from his overmatched rivals.
The JW Murphy went to the Graham Motion trained English Bee under Jose Ortiz.
New York Central set a stakes record in the Maryland Sprint under a rail ride from Ricardo Santana Jr. The Steve Asmussen trained colt kept his sprint record at three for three at six furlongs finishing in 1:08.74.
The Searching Stakes went to heavily favored Ickymasho with a wire to wire ride by Jose Ortiz.
The Very One was taken by Wild About Star with a nice stalking ride by Daniel Centano.
The Gallorette (Grade 3) went to the Bill Mott trained Mitchell Road, an up and coming turf star from the connections of Kentucky Derby winner Country House. Joel Rosario put the filly right on the lead and took them all the way around.
Lexitonian upset the Chick Lang Stakes under Jose Ortiz with a strong rally from off the pace paying $36.00.
The Grade 2 Dixie saw Catholic Boy make a successful return to the races under Javier Castellano who stalked the pace before seizing command and holding the field safe.
The 144th Preakness went to War of Will with a nice ride from Tyler Gaffalione who sat just off the pace from the rail and found his seam staying on the wood when he needed to. War of Will accelerated nicely in the stretch and held the field safe. Bodexpress unseated John Velazquez out of the gate and ran loose around the racetrack but fortunately did not cause any issues. When winning rider Tyler Gaffalione was asked about the loose horse he had this to say:
“To be honest, I didn’t know until we pulled up”
After winning his first Preakness and classic race Tyler said about War of Will:
“He was more relaxed than usual today. That was the key. We warmed him up to do so. Mark said, ‘Just jog him today, let him walk, try and keep him as calm as possible,’ and it worked out.”
The Preakness win by War of Will certainly looks good for sire War Front. War Front is also the sire of Omaha Beach who was scratched as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. Interestingly War Front is commonly thought of as a turf sire. Both War of Will and Omaha Beach started their careers trying the grass, but while each has run well over it neither has won on turf to date. It is not impossible to see either one back on the grass at some time in the future. Everfast closed for second while Owendale checked in third.
War of Will reportedly came out of the Preakness fine. He does have an old lingering hind end issue that Casse said does not bother him and is not a factor. An outrider reportedly told Casse the horse looked off behind after the race but Casse said it is nothing new and when a horse is tired even slight issues are exaggerated. Apparently War of Will has a condition known as “Stringhalt.” “Stringhalt” is a neurological gait abnormality that is seen mostly in the hind legs, and is visible when a horse walks, but not on jogging or running.
When asked about the Belmont Casse said this:
“He’s great this morning, I would say there’s an extremely good shot we’ll be there (in the Belmont). Now it’s just a matter of him saying he doesn’t want to go, that would be just if he was lethargic or something (during) training. There’s only three Triple Crown races. They’re pretty important, and I think if you can do it, you should do it. … The Belmont is the Belmont. It’s the third leg of the Triple Crown. Who doesn’t want to win it?”
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