This time, no horse interfered with War of Will. And this time, he won.
Two weeks after his traffic trouble in the Kentucky Derby was seen around the world and cost him all chance at victory, War of Will avoided all mishaps in Saturday's Preakness Stakes and won the second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course.
The win brought redemption to trainer Mark Casse and jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who vehemently defended War of Will and his Derby race over the last two weeks. Both the 58-year-old Casse -- who has won almost 2,700 races, earning $159.8 million in his career -- and the 24-year-old Gaffalione became Triple Crown race winners for the first time with the victory.
"It wasn't about revenge," Casse said after the Preakness. "It was just about letting [War of Will] show how good he is, and I didn't feel he got that shot in the Derby. Any trainer when they take their horse anywhere and want to run them -- it doesn't matter what kind of race -- you just want them to have a fair chance and show their true ability, and I just felt like he never got that."
As the world saw in the Kentucky Derby on May 4, War of Will was trying to pass Maximum Security on the far turn when that rival started drifting out, impeding War of Will and almost causing a potentially catastrophic situation. Gaffalione had to steady the horse, who lost his momentum and finished eighth. Meanwhile, Maximum Security crossed the finish line first.
After a 22-minute examination, stewards determined that Maximum Security interfered with War of Will and, for the first time in the race's history, disqualified the winner of the Kentucky Derby because of an in-race infraction. Country House was elevated from second to first, and War of Will was placed seventh.
In the days after the Derby, Gary West, the co-owner of Maximum Security, contended that War of Will and not Maximum Security was the horse to cause the interference. That prompted several passionate public responses from Casse, who defended his horse to the end. (West has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to overturn the Derby disqualification.)
Saturday's Preakness Stakes, which did not feature either Maximum Security or Country House, unfolded in much the same way as the Derby. War of Will, who drew the No. 1 post for the second straight race (a 260-1 shot), broke well and raced behind the early leader, Warrior's Charge. But this time, when Gaffalione and War of Will were ready to overtake the leader, they stayed along the rail. Warrior's Charge left just enough of an opening to slip through on the inside, and Gaffalione and War of Will took advantage, charging through for a clear and decisive victory. As the horse neared the wire, Casse watched the big screen from the infield, urging him on, yelling, "Come on, Will! Come on, Will!"
There was no need for a 22-minute look from the stewards.
War of Will paid $14.20 to win in the Preakness Stakes payouts. Long shot Everfast rallied for second and spiced up the exacta, which paid $947.00. Owendale finished third.
Now, the horse racing world's attention turns to the final leg of the Triple Crown, the 2019 Belmont Stakes, on June 8. The field for the race will clear up over the next three weeks, but Casse said after the Preakness that War of Will would probably race in the Belmont. Other possible entrants include last year's two-year-old champion, Game Winner, and Wood Memorial winner Tacitus.
So who wins the 2019 Belmont Stakes? And which long shots are a must-back? Join SportsLine right now to get picks from Jody Demling and Hank Goldberg, who turned a $300 investment into $21,000 in the 2004 Belmont Stakes!