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Tyler Gaffalione and trainer Mark Casse celebrate aboard War of Will's win in the 2019 Preakness
The $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) is the second jewel in the Triple Crown. A field of 13 three-year-olds contested the 144th renewal of this 1 3/16 mile classic around two turns at historic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, before 131,256 in attendance. It was warm and sunny most of the day but clouds rolled in for the main event, with a post time temperature of 76 degrees and the track rated fast. Bettors on-track and around the world pushed the handle up to a new record $99,852,653, topping the old record of $97,168,658 set in 2017. Stronach Group chairman and president Belinda Stronach said, "The 144th Preakness Stakes surpassed our expectations thanks to the horsemen and fans who came to celebrate this grand Maryland tradition. It makes for an unforgettable day of entertainment when you combine the world's top performers with the best Thoroughbred horses and jockeys at one of the most celebrated sporting events. The Preakness is second to none."
With official Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Country House and disqualified first place finisher Maximum Security not here, the race became wide open. Improbable was sent off as the lukewarm 5-2 favorite off his 5th place finish (moved up to 4th) in the Derby after finishing 2nd in the Arkansas Derby (G1). In to challenge him included 11-2 second choice Bourbon War, 2nd in the Fountain of Youth (G2) then 4th in the Florida Derby (G1), and 6-1 third choice War of Will, winner of the Risen Star (G2) but 9th in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and 8th (placed 7th) in the Derby.
War of Will leads down in the stretch.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 War of Will Gaffalione 14.20 7.40 5.40 10 Everfast Rosario 32.00 14.40 5 Owendale Geroux 6.00 Winning Time: 1:54.34 $1 Exacta 1-10 473.50 $1 Trifecta 1-10-5 4,699.80 $1 Superfecta 1-10-5-3 51,924.00 $1 Super High Five 1-10-5-3-11 carryover 404,310.47 $2 BES-Preakness Double 8-1 47.40
Left: War of Will with his flower blanket. Winning trainer Mark Casse, celebrating his first Triple Crown win, said, "Anybody that knows me or follows my training, they know I'm aggressive, and I'm not afraid to take chances. We won the Breeders' Cup with Shamrock Rose last year off of two weeks. Personally, I don't think it's done enough. I think too many times trainers are too worried about their win percentages. I'm not -- we're not afraid to run them."
Right: War of Will in the winner's circle. Casse added, "I was around him a lot earlier than Tyler. I had him in Saratoga, and at the same time I had Wonder Gadot, and everybody would come by the barn to see Wonder Gadot. And I would say, Do you want to see a really, really good horse? And I brought him out and I would show him. That's when we started calling him Wow. A lot of people said, Why are you so excited, because I do train a lot of horses, and Derby week he breezed, and everybody was like, Wow, and I'm like, Now you know what I've been seeing."
Celebrating with the trophy. Winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione, also celebrating his first Triple Crown win, said, "The horse broke well. He relaxed more 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. We just followed Warrior's Charge the whole way around there. He came off the fence going into the turn, and I thought about waiting to go outside him, but he kept going out, out, out. So I took my shot and went through there. The horse didn't hesitate and he finished the job."
Gaffalione added, "When Wonder Gadot was going for the Travers, there was talk that I might be able to ride her, and when they made the decision to ride Irad Ortiz, Mark told my agent, Don't worry, we have another one just as good. I'm just very happy for Mark to get his first Classic win, very happy for the horse. He deserved it more than anything. He's so special."
Left: War of Will in the infield saddling area. Casse added, "I've been following horse racing since I was like five, so 50-some years, and the Preakness has always been so big so me. But you know, I just felt like there was so much written, so much said that our horse never had a chance, he wasn't going to win, he wasn't going to do this, and I felt bad. I felt bad for him, and I felt very bad for (owner) Gary Barber. I just wanted a fair shot. That's all I wanted. You know, we were coming back in two weeks, and there were a lot of fresh shooters. So I was extremely proud. But it wasn't revenge. No, I just wanted to win. This is the Preakness. We just won the Preakness. I really don't care who was in it."
Right: War of Will in the post parade. Gaffalione added, "We were just focused on getting the horse to the winner's circle. That's the main thing. And his safety, of course. But it wasn't anything to do with redemption or trying to prove something. It was just the horse deserved it. He's a very talented horse, and we're just very thankful he was able to do so today, or prove that today."
Left: War of Will poses back at the barn after the race. Owner Gary Barber was not in attendance. Casse explained, "He's in France at the Cannes Film Festival. He has a day job unfortunately. We always kid, he says -- I say, Are you going to be there. He says, I don't want to quit my day job, and I say, Please don't. Gary Barber is a very hands-on owner, extremely smart and a very good horse person. So there will be lots of conversations. If all goes well – you know us, we like to run – we'll probably be at the Belmont."
Right: War of Will in his stall with the flowers displayed in front.
Left: Second place finisher Everfast in the Preakness saddling area. Trainer Dale Romans said, "Second in any classic is great. I thought the whole race he looked comfortable. When he wanted him to start picking up horses, he did. You could see he had the momentum. I thought we were going to win for a minute." Jockey Joel Rosario added, "We almost had it. He ran great. We have a great shot at the Belmont."
Right: Third place finisher Owendale in the post parade. Trainer Brad Cox said, "It looks like he maybe got stuck in behind some horses. He's a big horse, probably needs to be more out in the open, clear running where he can keep his motor rolling. He took a little while to get going but ran a great race." Jockey Florent Geroux added, "I tried to save ground most of the time. I wish I could've saved a little more ground. It probably cost us a length or two at the end."
Sixth place finisher and beaten favorite Improbable first time by. He reared up in the gate just before the start. Trainer Bob Baffert said, "When he did that in the gate, I knew that was it," Baffert said. "His only weakness is he gets a little bit fired up. He was acting pretty well, but then he got fired up. When horses do that, it takes a lot of energy out. Today wasn't his day." Jockey Mike Smith added, "His usual tactics in the gate. He got upset. He was so brilliant going in. I thought he would be nice. Actually, he broke well. I had a really good trip. Actually thought I was maybe going to get on with it at the 3/8 pole, and he just didn't keep on."
Bodexpress unseated jockey John Velazquez and then ran with the field the entire race distance. After the race he was eventually caught by outrider and retired jockey Kaymarie Kreidel aboard retired racehorse Witch Hunter. Kriedel said, "(Bodexpress) was playing games. He actually lunge-bucked out of the gate and tossed the rider in the air.To him, this race was just a game and I was unfortunately the one who ended the game for him. I was the party pooper. They love it – these ponies, once they learn this job, they love it. It's just like being a racehorse – they take pride in winning a race, and these guys take pride in catching a horse." Velazquez said, "He was just not behaving good in the gate. He was not standing really well. He got me up against the wall in the gate. When the doors opened I was standing up right from the start and I kind of jumped sideways. I had my feet out of the irons and I lost my balance and I went off."
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