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Code of Honor, Hidden Scroll lead Florida Derby field

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey fondly remembers how the majority of the betting public and handicappers overlooked Orb six years ago, all the way to the Kentucky Derby.

If it happens again with Code of Honor, he won’t complain.

Code of Honor, the winner of the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, returns to that same track Saturday for the $1 million Florida Derby – one of the last major prep races on the road to the Triple Crown season. A field of 11 horses is entered, and Hidden Scroll is the likely favorite even after getting beaten by Code of Honor four weeks ago.

“He was pretty overlooked in the Fountain of Youth too and, you know, I think that if that’s the way it is this Saturday I think that he will probably make some people feel kind of funny,” McGaughey said of his horse, which will be ridden again by John Velazquez. “But that’s the public’s opinion and the media’s opinion. I mean, I’ve liked what I’ve seen and I wouldn’t trade places with any of the horses that are in there.”

Orb won the Fountain of Youth for McGaughey six years ago, then the Florida Derby, then the Kentucky Derby.

So far, Code of Honor is on the same path.

“I was very impressed with his race in the Fountain of Youth,” McGaughey said. “I felt that, you know, really, he was kind of an easy winner.”

The Kentucky Derby field is based on points that horses earn by their finishes in various prep races. Winning the Fountain of Youth assures Code of Honor enough points to get into the May 4 race at Churchill Downs, assuming he’s healthy. And while the $600,000 winner’s share of the Florida Derby pot is obviously enticing, he won’t need points on Saturday.

That’s not the case for Hidden Scroll. He was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite, just ahead of 3-1 Code of Honor.

At minimum, just to have a shot at reaching the Kentucky Derby, he’ll need to finish no worse than third Saturday. Hidden Scroll didn’t race as a 2-year-old, broke his maiden at Gulfstream in January in a staggering 14-lengths win and was the 6-5 favorite in the Fountain of Youth on March 2 – he went to the lead but ran out of gas down the stretch, fading to fourth.

That race was 1 1/16 miles, and the Florida Derby is 1 1/8 miles. The added half-furlong wouldn’t typically seem to help a horse that tired at the shorter distance, but trainer Bill Mott thinks some tweaks to the game plan is all that’s required.

“We’re going into a race that’s only his third race,” Mott said. “We certainly don’t know everything about him. I think it’s still going to be a little bit of a learning experience. I’m extremely high on the horse. I think he’s got a tremendous amount of ability.”

Bourbon War is the 7-2 third choice in the morning line for the Florida Derby.

UAE DERBY

The other Kentucky Derby point-providing race Saturday is the $2.5 million UAE Derby in Dubai. Like the Florida Derby, it provides 100 points to the winner, 40 points for second, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth.

The morning-line favorite is Divine Image, a filly who has three wins and a second-place showing in her four career starts. But even if she prevails Saturday, she may not get pointed to run against males in the Kentucky Derby – and instead, perhaps, to the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill the day before the Derby.

War of Will wins the 2019 Preakness Stakes

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War of Will, jockeyed by Tyler Gaffalione and trained by Mark Casse, won the 144th Preakness Stakes after a brief inquiry. This is the first Triple Crown win for both Casse and Gaffalione.

The win comes two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, where War of Will was one of the primary horses Maximum Security impeded during one of the most historic and controversial Kentucky Derby races on record. War of Will, known as “WOW” around the barn, finished 8th at Churchill and was elevated to 7th.

“I’m very happy for the horse, he deserved it more than anything. He’s so special,” said Gaffalione. “It really hasn’t even hit me yet. I can’t even put it into words. I just can’t thank my family enough for their support.”

Jockey John Velazquez was unseated off of Bodexpress out of the gate, and the riderless No. 9 horse continued to run with the pack. Stewards flagged the incident but quickly cleared it and listed him as “did not finish.” Outriders couldn’t attempt to catch him until later in the race because of how close he was running to other horses.

“I’m good,” said Velazquez. “To tell you the truth I’m just disappointed.”

After starting four back from pace-setter Warrior’s Charge, War of Will clung to the rail until sneaking through an opening down the homestretch to take over the lead. Longshot Everfast finished 1 1/4 lengths behind in second, and Owendale took third. Improbable, Bob Baffert‘s morning line favorite jockeyed by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, finished in fourth. Maryland-bred Alwaysmining ran 11th. See the full results here.

War of Will’s win comes just two weeks after one of the most controversial Kentucky Derby races in history. Maximum Security led wire-to-wire but was disqualified 22 minutes after crossing the finish line for impacting the forward progress of several horses, including War of Will and Bodexpress. Track stewards disqualified him, and every horse was moved up one position. Longshot Country House (65-1) finished second and was elevated to first.

For the first time since Grindstone in 1996, the Kentucky Derby winner didn’t run. Country House showed signs of a developing illness and stopped training. Maximum Security was rested after the Derby.

This was also the first time that none of the top-3 Kentucky Derby finishers have run in the second leg of the Triple Crown since 1951.

The Preakness Stakes, raced annually at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, is marked by its shorter distance and smaller field. Run just two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, the fast turnaround time can be the biggest challenge for horses who just ran at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

NBC’s coverage of the Triple Crown concludes at Belmont Park for the 151st Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 8 on NBC and the NBC Sports app.

Last year, Baffert’s horse Justify won the 143rd Preakness with Smith en route to win the 2018 Triple Crown. Owned by WinStar Farm, he became the 13th horse to do so and Baffert’s second, just three years after American Pharoah in 2015.

Baffert’s Improbable remains favorite to win the Preakness

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BALTIMORE (AP) Bob Baffert-trained Improbable remains the favorite for the Preakness.

Improbable is 3-1 to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown after being installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite. He was also the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, finished fifth and was placed fourth after Maximum Security was disqualified.

War of Will, who was initially the second choice in wagering at 4-1, was 6-1 as of late Saturday morning. Bourbon War, who didn’t run in the Derby, has been bet down from 12-1 to 9-2.

Last-minute addition Everfast, who opened 50-1, is no longer the longest shot on the board; he is now 22-1. The longest shot now is 26-1 Market King, who is trained by six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas.

Odds will continue to fluctuate until post time at 6:48 p.m.