Preakness recap + Belmont Stakes preview
War of Will sat a perfect inside trip behind the speed and won Preakness 2019 for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Tyler Gaffalione. Everfast finished 2nd, and Brad Cox runners Owendale and Warrior’s Charge ended up 3rd and 4th.
The second jewel of the Triple Crown got off to a rocky beginning when maiden and expected pace player Bodexpress dumped jockey John Velazquez at the start. Warrior’s Charge from post 3 was the early leader, and he was pursued by Market King and Anothertwistafate. War of Will was tucked in behind those three from the inside post and was always traveling sweetly.
Market King was the first to crack, and Alwaysmining was swinging into action at the six furlong mark. War of Will’s beautiful journey got even better. Alwaysmining and Anothertwistafate began to weaken, and War of Will had a seam open up along the inside. He got the jump, took command, and held off late running longshot Everfast to win by a length and a quarter. Owendale made a nice run from off the pace and was a nose behind Everfast. Warrior’s Charge held 4th in a big effort in his stakes debut. Laughing Fox got involved too late and ended up 5th, and was followed by beaten favorite Improbable, Win Win Win, Bourbon War, Signalman, Anothertwistafate, Alwaysmining, Market King, and Bodexpress.
War of Will (1st) got his redemption in this spot. He was bothered by Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby, and the latter was disqualified. There were no such bumping issues in this event. The Mark Casse trainee sat the trip of a lifetime, and that made up for his terrible luck in the LA Derby (pulled muscle) and Kentucky Derby.
As a handicapper, I will admit that it was impossible for me to come up with Everfast (2nd). He lost his last three stakes starts by a combined 43-lengths, and he was the first horse I threw out. Trainer Dale Romans knew what he was doing in his last minute decision to put this outsider in the Preakness.
Brad Cox did an outstanding job preparing Owendale (3rd) and Warrior’s Charge (4th) for the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Owendale rallied to just miss 2nd and Warrior’s Charge set the pace and battled hard throughout in his graded stakes debut.
Laughing Fox (5th) was just too far behind early, and the son of Union Rags did well to finish 5th.
Improbable (6th) never looked comfortable. He got worked up in the paddock and on the track prior to the race, and he acted up in the gate just like he did in the Arkansas Derby. I also think he is better at shorter distances.
Win Win Win (7th) was not as far back this time, but at this point there is no doubt that he is better at shorter distances. Hopefully trainer Mike Trombetta concentrates on shorter events the rest of the year.
The blinkers on move did not help Win Win Win, and Bourbon War (8th) did not have any luck with the hood either. I actually thought that he was the most disappointing runner in the Preakness. The race set up well for an off the pace runner and he showed nice late interest in Florida all winter. Today was not his day at all. His jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. basically said he did not fire.
Signalman (9th) never got involved in a dull effort. I thought he had a shot at a minor award.
I thought Anothertwistafate (10th) ran okay. Jose Ortiz got him out of the gate and would have taken the early lead if it was available, but he ended up stalking the pace from post 12. He just did not have it when the real running began and backed out of there.
Alwaysmining (11th) sat a nice stalking trip and was in with a winning chance, but he just could not cope with this class of animal when the real running started. Jockey Daniel Centeno was surprised that he stopped running.
Market King (12th) did exactly what I thought he would. He attended the pace and weakened at a class level and distance above his pay grade. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas will probably look at shorter races for this one.
Bodexpress (13th) never had a chance to run. He dumped John Velazquez as soon as the gates opened.
From a betting standpoint, this was a very disappointing result. I did not have any winning tickets. I had War of Will on top of Bourbon War and Anothertwistafate in exactas, and I played Bourbon War down the board in trifectas with War of Will and others on top, and Owendale and others underneath. My two key horses did not fire, and I did not have Everfast anywhere.
This remains a division without a leader, and it might be that way for the rest of the year. Some think Maximum Security is the top dog. War of Will staked his claim in the Preakness, and I believe that Omaha Beach is the best sophomore in the land. Juvenile champ Game Winner still has his fans, and another runner might jump up and win the Belmont Stakes.
Definitely wear your seatbelts. We are in for a wild ride in the 3-year-old division for the rest of the year!
Belmont Stakes 2019 Probables (in alphabetical order):
Everfast: His strong Preakness effort came out of left field. He basically ran back to his Holy Bull (G2) runner-up finish at 128-1 odds, but a string of poor efforts before and after that race were impossible to ignore. I want to see him do it again and cannot imagine playing him in the Belmont Stakes. He is still eligible for an entry level allowance race.
Intrepid Heart: One of the most interesting Belmont Stakes hopefuls. He won his first two outings before a bad start and a distant show finish as the beaten favorite in the Peter Pan Stakes (G3). His trainer Todd Pletcher has saddled three Belmont Stakes winners (Tapwrit, Palace Malice, Rags To Riches), and the $750,000 purchase is lightly raced with plenty of upside. His sire Tapit is responsible for three Belmont Stakes winners (Tapwrit, Creator, Tonalist), and dam sire Touch Gold won the Belmont Stakes in 1997. Dam Flaming Heart produced 2014 Belmont Stakes runner-up Commissioner. Nobody has a better mile and a half pedigree.
Joevia: Would add pace to the race if he runs. He exits a nice win in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park, but was no threat in the Wood Memorial (G2) before that. He just does not seem like a mile and a half horse.
Master Fencer: Crossed the line 7th in the Kentucky Derby and was placed 6th after the disqualification of Maximum Security. He was last for at least the opening six furlongs in the slop and showed decent late interest under the Twin Spires. He ran much better than I thought he would in his first start in this country, and horses bred in Japan can typically run all day. I would not be surprised if he hit the board in the Belmont Stakes.
Owendale: Late runner has definitely improved after a win in the Lexington Stakes (G3) and a show finish in the Preakness (G1). I am not sure that he can sustain his kick at a mile and a half.
Sir Winston: Broke slow and showed nice late interest to finished a clear 2nd in the Peter Pan (G3). He is 0-for-4 in graded dirt routes and Tax and Tacitus handled him easily earlier this year. That last effort at Belmont Park was a step in the right direction, and War of Will’s stablemate deserves a shot in the Belmont Stakes.
Spinoff: Made nice progress in his first four outings from a numbers standpoint, and a strong runner-up finish in the LA Derby (G2) was his coming out party. I will draw a line through his wet track Kentucky Derby flop. He was wide throughout from post 17 and ended up beating one horse at 52-1 odds. He worked a strong five-eighths in 59.91 at Belmont Park on Saturday, May 25, and he owns excellent tactical speed. He has stamina influences throughout his pedigree.
Tacitus: Returned much improved in 2019 with back-to-back points race victories in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2). He rallied to finish a more than respectable 4th in the Kentucky Derby (placed 3rd via disqualification), and he has been targeting the Belmont Stakes ever since. He had a very strong Belmont Stakes breeze on May 26 and owns a very classy pedigree. His jockey Jose Ortiz won the 2017 Belmont Stakes aboard Tapwrit. As mentioned earlier, his daddy Tapit has sired three Belmont Stakes winners.
Tax: Never got seriously involved from an inner post in the Kentucky Derby. The former maiden claimer had a series of good efforts in points race routes with a show finish in the Remsen (G2), a win in the Withers (G3), and a runner-up finish in the Wood Memorial (G2). He is probably a cut below the best but possesses tactical speed and a long-winded pedigree.
War of Will: Preakness winner owns fine tactical speed and has a long distance turf pedigree. How much will he have left in the tank after two tough races in Derby and Preakness? The Belmont Stakes will be his sixth start of the year, and Everfast is the only other Belmont Stakes hopeful with more 2019 races.