War of Will nearly got knocked down around the final turn in the Kentucky Derby. The colt avoided trouble with a rail-skimming ride in the Preakness Stakes and found some redemption.
War of Will, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, held off longshots Everfast and Owendale in the stretch to capture the second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Saturday.
War of Will, who went off at 6-1 odds, was the main victim in the controversial Kentucky Derby run two weeks earlier on a muddy track at Churchill Downs.
Maximum Security crossed the wire first in the Derby but was disqualified for veering out around the final turn and interfering with War of Will, among others. Maximum Security was not entered in the race. Neither was Country House, who placed first after Maximum Security's number was taken down.
Preakness favorite Improbable finished a disappointing sixth. Bodexpress reared up and threw jockey John Velazquez when the gates opened.
War of Will showed his athleticism by staying on his feet in the Kentucky Derby after the foul. He flattened out in the stretch and finished eighth, though he moved up to seventh after Maximum Security's disqualification.
This time, War of Will stalked pacesetters Warrior's Charge, Market King and Anothertwistafate from his inside post, then burst through an opening entering the stretch.
"He's got so much heart," Gaffalione said in the postrace TV interview. "We always knew he had the ability. We just had to get a little bit lucky and today was his day."
Trainer Mark Casse won his first Triple Crown race. He came close two years earlier in the Preakness with Classic Empire, who lost by a head to Cloud Computing.
"We almost got it done a couple of years ago and this is even more special, given everything we've been through," Casse said in an NBC interview. "I was absolutely fine (after the Derby) because I thought I was lucky. I was the luckiest guy and the only one luckier was horse racing because we were this close to you never seeing him again."
Unheralded Everfast, a surprise late entrant from trainer Dale Romans, went off at 25-1. Everfast closed up the rail and barely held off 7-1 Owendale for the second spot.
"Very happy for Mark to get his first classic win and I'm very happy for the horse," Gaffalione said. "He deserved it more than anything. He's so special."
War of Will paid $14.20, $7.40 and $5.40 across the board. Everfast paid $32.00 and $14.40, while Owendale paid $6.00 to show. The $2 exacta was worth $947.00 and a $1 trifecta ticket paid a whopping $4,699.80
The third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, will be run on June 8.
--Field Level Media