Gary Barber's War of Will exited his 1 ¼-length victory over the late-running Everfast in Saturday's144th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md., in good order and will run in the Belmont Stakes (G1) June 8 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., if the colt continues to show all the right signs, trainer Mark Casse said Sunday morning.
“I would say there's an extremely good shot he'll be there,” Casse said of the 1 ½-mile third leg of the Triple Crown. “Now it's just a matter of him saying he doesn't want to go, that would be if he was lethargic or something in training.
“There are only three Triple Crown races; they're pretty important. I think if you can do it, you should do it,” he added. “The Belmont is the Belmont. It's the third leg of the Triple Crown. Who doesn't want to win it?”
War of Will, who gave Casse, Barber and jockey Tyler Gaffalione their first victories in a Triple Crown race, could be the only horse to run in all three spring classics for 3-year-olds. The son of War Front was at the center of the potentially catastrophic entanglement in the Kentucky Derby (G1) May 4 when first-place finisher Maximum Security came out into War of Will's path. War of Will finished eighth and was moved up to seventh upon Maximum Security's disqualification to 17th that awarded the victory to second-place finisher Country House.
“It would just show he's tough and able to overcome things,” Casse said of War of Will should he compete in all three Triple Crown races. “We saw yesterday that the Derby was very, very trying. I was worried about that with him. He was a little foot sore afterwards.
“The pace was extremely hot [in the Preakness] and you saw two deep closers come [to be second and third]. I didn't realize how deep. They were behind Bodexpress, [who continued to run after unseating jockey John Velazquez at the start]. For our horse to continue, he was pretty close to the pace and it was hot,” he added. “I liked the fact that after the race, when they were galloping out, he took off again. He was not going to let them go by.”
Of the race, Casse said, “I knew we were doing well and I liked where we were. About maybe the three-eighths pole, I started thinking, 'Oh, dear, not again,' because he was wanting to go somewhere and he had nowhere to go. I didn't get excited until it opened up. I was hoping the leader would come off the rail a little bit. And when he did, Tyler snuck up in there a little bit. I don't know. I haven't seen it. But NBC had a camera on me and we gave them a lot to see, I can promise you that.”
Casse reflected on growing up on a farm in Indiana when “Sundays were awful, because there was no Daily Racing Form. The Racing Forms were delivered to our farm, and everybody would drive from other places and pick them up. You know how a dog waits for its owner to come? I would sit and I would wait for the car to bring the Racing Form. Then I'd run over and read it from top to bottom – and how could you not know about the Preakness? I didn't even let that bother me about the Derby horse (Maximum Security or adjudged winner Country House) not being here and this and that. It's the Preakness. And we can now say we won it.”
The trainer said his phone was blowing up with congratulatory messages.
“Between texts and emails, I had more than 400, and I always answer everybody,” he said. “I've only answered about 250 so far, so I'm still working on that. And I got a very nice email from Gary West,” the owner Maximum Security, “which was very nice, congratulating Gary (Barber) and I.”
Casse reiterated his post-Derby sentiments that it was fortunate that a horse as athletic as War of Will was the one who nearly clipped heels with Maximum Security because a less agile horse might have fallen.
“We should be thankful,” he said. “I'm not sure everybody would have survived that, the bumping and the contact. But he's very athletic.”
Casse had planned to ship out War of Will Sunday morning, but changed it to Monday morning. He will go to Keeneland, where Casse's division is overseen by assistant trainer David Carroll, who also had War of Will all winter at the Fair Grounds.
War of Will won the Fair Grounds' Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) before finishing ninth in the Louisiana Derby, a race in which he lost his action shortly after the break and never was a threat. But Casse and his team never lost confidence in the War Front colt, who earned $990,000 and now has made $1,491,569 off a 4-1-1 record in 10 starts.
Everfast, Owendale Likely Candidates for Belmont
Calumet Farm's Everfast, who made an impressive late run along the rail to finish second in Saturday's Preakness, was headed back to trainer Dale Romans' Churchill Downs stable Sunday morning.
The Belmont Stakes will be taken under serious consideration for the son of Take Charge Indy, Romans said after Everfast nosed out Owendale for second money Saturday.
Brad Cox, who finished third with Owendale and fourth with Warrior's Charge in the trainer's Triple Crown debut, said Owendale could possibly run in the Belmont Stakes. Owendale, winner of Keeneland's Lexington (G3) in his prior start, put in a late wide rally to finish 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Warrior's Charge, who lost by a total of 2 ½ lengths after setting a strong pace.
Owendale and Warrior's Charge were scheduled to van back to Churchill Downs on Sunday.
“They both cooled out fine, actually pretty quick too, considering to ask them to do something they'd never done before, going that far,” Cox said. “Warrior's Charge, as fast as he went early, he looked great his morning. His energy is good. Same thing with Owendale.
“Warrior's Charge, we wouldn't even consider the Belmont with him, obviously,” he said. “The mile and a half is a touch far. Owendale, we'll think about it. We'll see how he's moving. It would have a lot to do with who's running, and, first of all, how he's doing. It's a lot back in three weeks. But it's a big purse and it's a prestigious race, and these horses only get one shot in their 3-year-old year.”
Warrior's Charge blitzed the first quarter-mile in 22.50 seconds under Javier Castellano before getting a half-mile in 46.16 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.56. War of Will came up the rail to take the lead, reaching the mile in 1:35.48 and 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.34. Cox said that he thought he had a chance to win when the field turned for home.
“I thought, 'Warrior's Charge is doing exactly what I thought: He's going to take them a long way,' and he continued on,” he said. “Then War of Will slipped up on the inside and I thought, 'OK, he's got the best of us,' and I turned my attention to Owendale and thought for a second, 'OK, he's got a shot to get there.' Then I saw the pink silks [of War of Will owner Gary Barber], and we weren't moving quick enough the last part of it.
“But it was a big effort, just a nose away from being second,” he added. “I thought we lost more ground than the horse who ran second, so I was super-pleased with Owendale. Both of them. The horse on the lead ran an unbelievable race. He's a really nice horse, probably just a little shorter races for him in the future.”
Cox said Warrior's Charge's owners, Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Stables, were glad to have supplemented the colt for $150,000 to the Preakness, even though fourth-place money of $99,000 left a shortfall.
“They didn't break even, they didn't get their money back,” he said. “But the horse showed them a lot. I think for them, everything was positive as far as performance. The effort yesterday didn't surprise me at all. He gives you what he has. He's very, very honest.”
Preakness Notes: WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and Starlight Racing's Improbable, the beaten 5-2 favorite in the Preakness, will be shipped back to Churchill Downs said Jimmy Barnes, longtime assistant to trainer Bob Baffert. Though Improbable acted up a bit in the starting gate, Barnes said the colt did not have any issues following his sixth-place finish in the Preakness at 5-2.
“There's nothing to report. He came out good,” Barnes said Sunday morning.
Similar to his performance in the Derby, Improbable had some traffic issues in the Preakness.
“They went just a bit quicker than him up front,” Barnes said. “We were once again behind horses. We'll regroup.”
Improbable, the 4-1 betting choice in the Derby, finished fifth but was moved to fourth by the disqualification of first finisher Maximum Security.
Peter Redekop's Anothertwistafate came out of his 10th-place finish in Saturday's Preakness well, trainer Blaine Wright said Sunday. The son of Scat Daddy, who earned an automatic entry into the Preakness with a victory in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, will be shipped back to California Wednesday.
Anothertwistafate, who was Wright's first Triple Crown runner. attended the pace set by Warrior's Charge, before weakening and dropping back in the stretch under Jose Ortiz.
“We got put in the race, which was what we wanted. No excuses,” Wright said. “He was there at the top of the lane and didn't sustain the drive.”
Wright said Anothertwistafate cooled out well, scoped clean and looked good to him. He will return to Wright's barn at Golden Gate Fields, but the trainer said he has no races in the immediate future.
“He's been going a long time. He's probably been in training probably more than a year, so maybe it's time for a break for him,” Wright said. “We'll just get back and see what our options are. There is a level for him somewhere. We've just got to figure it out.”
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