Half the horses in Preakness field get first shot at Justify

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BALTIMORE — Half the participants in the eight-horse Preakness field have yet to experience the sensation of chasing Justify to the finish line.

Perhaps one of the new shooters in Saturday’s race can find a way to leave the Kentucky Derby winner in his wake.

Preakness Stakes: What Time, Where to Watch and More

Quip, Sporting Chance, Diamond King and Tenfold skipped the Derby to focus on earning a chunk of the $1.5 million Preakness purse.

History just might be on their side.

A new shooter – a horse which runs in one of the two remaining Triple Crown races after passing up the Derby – has won the Preakness four times since 2000. Just last year, Cloud Computing paid $13.40 in an upset over Derby winner Always Dreaming.

Then again…

“Derby runners have done well over the course of time,” insisted W. Elliott Walden, president and CEO of racing operations for WinStar Farm, which owns Justify and Quip. “Now is it because they’re the better horses? Quite possibly that’s the case. They’re just the best horses of the crop and that’s why they run in the Kentucky Derby.”

The finest of the newcomers this year appears to be Quip, who has three wins and a second-place showing in five career races.

“He’s a really good horse. He’s fast,” Justify trainer Bob Baffert said of Quip.

Trained by Rodolphe Brisset and ridden by last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Florent Geroux, Quip captured the Tampa Derby in March before finishing second in the Arkansas Derby.

While unbeaten Justify comes in with just two weeks’ rest – the quickest turnaround of his career – Quip enters the Preakness coming off an extended break.

“Quip is a horse that has shown quality at the highest level,” Walden said. “We feel like he could have run in the Kentucky Derby, but we wanted to give him a chance to catch up to himself. He’s a slight-made horse we felt like would do better with the five weeks rest.”

Quip had a pair of wins last year before staggering to a seventh-place showing in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November.

In retrospect, that might have been a turning point.

“He’s changed a lot,” Brisset said. “After the Kentucky Jockey Club, we gave him a couple of weeks off and you could see the maturation. You still have to be a little careful when he’s around too many horses, but he’s way more professional.”

Well, Quip -the third choice at 12-1 – will have only seven other horses to contend with on Saturday. Two of them will be saddled by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Lukas brings back Bravazo, who finished sixth in the Derby, along with Sporting Chance.

Unlike the rest of the first-time Triple Crown participants, Sporting Chance is no fresher than the Derby horses. Sporting Chance (30-1) also ran at Churchill Downs on May 5, taking fourth in the Pat Day Mile.

Asked to assess the chances of both his entrants Saturday, Lukas shrugged his shoulders and saluted Justify’s impressive performance at the Derby.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence if he runs that same race. Let’s be honest, at 82 you get more realistic,” Lukas said. “If he’s the best horse, so be it. We’ll throw the bouquets his way and salute him as a second-leg winner and go on to the Belmont. But we’ll try to get the best piece of this we can.”

Tenfold (20-1) began racing this year. Sired by 2007 Preakness winner Curlin, the dark brown colt won his first two races before fading to third in the Arkansas Derby last month.

“We have a fresh horse; he’s put on weight since the Arkansas Derby and he’s trained really well at Churchill Downs,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “The timing is good for us for this race.”

If the track is soggy, that would be even better. Curlin earned 2007 Horse of the Year honors after slogging to victory in the muddy Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“With all this wet weather, him being a Curlin, he steps up with the sloppy track and moves forward,” Blasi said.

Trained by John Servis, Diamond King (30-1) won the Federico Tesio Stakes at nearby Laurel Park in April. While Diamond King probably doesn’t have the speed and stamina of Justify, he does trainer who won the Kentucky Derby and jockey Javier Castellano, who guided Cloud Computing to victory at last year’s Preakness.

“We’ve got a top jockey and the horse is doing really well,” co-owner Chuck Zacney said.

Baffert has already beaten three of the horses in the field. Though he’s never faced the others, they certainly have grabbed his attention.

“You’ve got new shooters,” Baffert said. “John Servis didn’t come for the crab cakes. Then you’ve got Quip. And Wayne? You can’t count Wayne Lukas out. That’s when he does the most damage, when nobody’s talking about him, he’s under the radar. He still knows his horses and he’s up here for a reason.”

Preakness winner War of Will likely to run in Belmont

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BALTIMORE (AP) Owner Gary Barber called trainer Mark Casse for the fourth time in 11 hours since War of Will won the Preakness.

Only this time, Casse was in the middle of holding court with reporters the morning after his first Triple Crown victory.

“All’s good and we’re going to the Belmont?” Casse said to Barber with a Cheshire cat grin. “I was kidding. I was making that up.”

Well, not totally.

Assuming all goes well in the coming weeks, Casse said “there’s an extremely good shot” War of Will goes to the Belmont Stakes on June 8 in New York. If he wins, he’d be the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 to fall short in the Kentucky Derby before capturing the Preakness and Belmont and would be the front-runner for 3-year-old horse of the year.

“It’s the third leg of the Triple Crown, who doesn’t want to win it?” Casse said Sunday. “There are only three Triple Crown races, and they’re pretty important. I think if you can do it you should do it. …

“That’s what we do. We run.”

Those watching the Preakness saw a horse run the entire race and then some after throwing off his jockey out of the starting gate, a scene that – once it was clear rider John Velazquez was OK – served as a reminder of how much thoroughbreds love to run. Bodexpress provided a memorable spectacle as War of Will fulfilled his potential at Pimlico.

The Belmont is another substantial test for the tough and talented War of Will because it’s a third race in six weeks and is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1+ miles.

There won’t be a Kentucky Derby rematch with Maximum Security, who was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, or Country House, who was placed first and since been sidelined by illness. And two-time Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert said he probably won’t take Improbable to the Belmont after finishing out of the money in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness as the favorite.

But War of Will could have to contend with Derby returners Tacitus, Master Fencer and perhaps Baffert’s Game Winner, along with Preakness surprise second-place finisher Everfast, third-place runner Owendale and ninth-place Signalman. Trainer Bill Mott ruled out Country House but is planning to take Tacitus to the Belmont and figures the gray colt will have no problem in a significantly longer race.

“He should handle it fine,” Mott said by phone Saturday. “My guess was that he’d handle the Derby distance fine, which he did. I was pleased. I think it goes the same for the Belmont. I think it’s within his grasp.”

If the Preakness had more than an extra quarter-mile, closers Everfast and Owendale might’ve put a scare into War of Will on Saturday. Everfast was a late entry by trainer Dale Romans three days before the race and opened at 50-1 but showed he might be a good long-distance runner.

“We almost had it,” Everfast jockey Joel Rosario said. “He ran great. We have a great shot at the Belmont.”

Tacitus, Everfast and Owendale will be strong challengers, but this should be War of Will’s Belmont to lose. Had he not endured such a rough trip in and been interfered with at Churchill Downs on May 4, there could be another wave of Triple Crown talk going on right now about a third winner in five years.

But Casse isn’t thinking about that, still grateful War of Will avoided going down in the Derby and was able to rebound and run well in the Preakness. He’ll monitor the horse back at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, to make sure a sore foot and his energy level are good enough to run in the Belmont on a three-week turnaround.

Casse can’t predict how War of Will responds this time, but he knows what it would mean if the horse comes out on top once again.

“He’s just an athlete,” Casse said. “It would just show that he’s tough and able to overcome things.”

How Bodexpress ran the 2019 Preakness without a jockey

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An already-chaotic Triple Crown season took a surprising turn at the 2019 Preakness Stakes when the No. 9 horse Bodexpress went on a joy ride without his Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

Just two weeks after Maximum Security‘s historic and controversial disqualification in the 145th Kentucky Derby, War of Will, one of the horses most impacted by Maximum Security in the homestretch turn, crossed the wire first at Pimlico to win the 144th Preakness.

But all eyes were on Bodexpress

The moment the bell rang and the gates flew open, the Kentucky-bred colt jumped out and up, unseating Velazquez. The jockey landed on the dirt but got up and walked off the track under his own power.

“He was just not behaving well in the gate,” Velazquez said after the race. “He wasn’t standing well. He got me against a wall in the gate, and when the doors opened, I was kind of off right from the start and he jumped sideways. And I had my feet out of the irons, so I lost my balance and I went off.”

To the delight of viewers around the world, Bodexpress kept running, minus around 100 pounds of human. He kept pace with the pack for some time before falling back.

See the full race replay of the 144th Preakness Stakes

Horses are herd animals and Bodexpress was bred and trained to run, so it was no surprise that he kept going with the pack.

Outriders, the people on horseback around the track who help control the race surroundings, couldn’t chase him down initially because of how close he was to other horses. They tried to grab him as he turned towards the homestretch, but he dodged the attempt by scooting to the middle of the pack.

The 20-1 shot crossed the wire ahead of Market King, but his trip didn’t end there. He zoomed past horses as they were pulling up and ran an entire extra lap. When all was said and done, he was a little sweaty but in good health.

Stewards briefly flashed the inquiry sign because of his horseplay, but they quickly released it and named War of Will the official winner. Bodexpress was given last placed and named “did not finish.”

Trained by Gustavo Delgado, Bodexpress was a late entry into the Kentucky Derby after morning line favorite Omaha Beach scratched. The 71-1 longshot finished 14th at Churchill and was elevated to 13th. He has never won a race, with or without a jockey.

“I’m good,” Velazquez said. “I’m just disappointed.”

See Larry Collmus, voice of the Triple Crown, call the 144th Preakness