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Bob Baffert-trained Improbable 5-2 Preakness favorite

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BALTIMORE — In a field without the top three finishers in the Kentucky Derby, the odds that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert wouldn’t have the favorite in the Preakness are, well, Improbable.

Baffert will seek a record-setting eighth Preakness victory Saturday with 5-2 morning line favorite Improbable, who will start from the No. 4 post in a field of 13 horses.

War of Will, the second choice at 4-1, received the No. 1 post in Wednesday’s draw.

For the first time since 1951, the Preakness will not include the four horses that crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby. Improbable finished fifth and was moved up to fourth following the disqualification of Maximum Security for interference.

It was the only time in six career races that Improbable failed to finish first or second. On Saturday, co-owner Elliott Walden hopes his horse gets back on track after watching another of his horses, Justify, roll to a Triple Crown win in 2018.

“I feel like we’re favored by default this year,” Walden conceded. “But this horse has a good resume. He ran very well in the Derby without hitting the board.”

After being bunched tightly in the 19-horse Kentucky Derby, Improbable can expect a much smoother ride within a small field.

“Happy with the 4 post. Post positions here are a little bit anti-climactic,” Walden said. “There’s not a lot whole lot to it. We just hope he gets away clean and he’s able to get in a nice rhythm. ”

Baffert did not attend the draw, but he will no doubt be in the center of things Saturday. Baffert and R.W. Walden, who saddled seven winners in the late 1800s, are currently tied atop the Preakness leaderboard.

War of Will, meanwhile, is stuck on the rail with the No. 1 post – the same place he started from in the Kentucky Derby, when he finished eighth and was moved up to seventh.

“We definitely know it’s not as bad as the Derby,” trainer Mark Casse said. “One thing about it: the 1 hole can be extremely good or it can be extremely bad. In the Derby it was extremely bad, so I’m thinking we’re going to get extremely good this time.”

The other two Derby participants in this race are Bodexpress and Win Win Win. Bodexpress (14th in the Derby, moved up to 13th) will break from the No. 9 post and is 20-1 on the morning line. Win Win Win (10th to 9th at Churchill Downs) is 15-1 from the 13 hole.

Bodexpress is striving for his first career victory, with hopes of becoming the first maiden to win the Preakness since Refund captured a four-horse race in 1888.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 83, is looking for his seventh Preakness victory with Market King, 30-1 on the morning line and starting from the No. 8 post.

“I don’t think the post position matters a lot because he’s a very good gate horse,” Lukas said. “I don’t think he’s the fastest but he’ll be close. By the time they get to the clubhouse turn, he should be placed somewhere where we’re comfortable.”

This is Lukas’ 44th Preakness entry, more than any trainer in the 144-year history of the race.

Alwaysmining drew the No. 7 post and odds of 8-1. Not only is Kelly Rubley seeking to become the first female trainer to win the Preakness, but the last Maryland-bred horse to finish first in the race was Deputed Testamony in 1983.

“I think it’s more about the horse than the fact that I’m a woman trainer,” Rubley said. “The horse brought me here, and I’m very proud of him.”

Everfast , entered hours before the draw on Wednesday, was the longest shot in the field at 50-1.

The horse is trained by Dale Romans, who won the 2011 Preakness with Shackleford.

“Some of the top contenders are missing, so we’ll take a chance,” Romans said from Louisville, Kentucky.

The others: Anothertwistafate (No. 12 post, 6-1); Bourbon War (No. 2, 12-1); Laughing Fox (No. 11, 20-1); Owendale (No. 5, 10-1); Signalman (No. 8, 30-1); Warrior’s Charge (No. 3, 12-1).

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