WHAT DOES WAR OF WILL’S PREAKNESS WIN MEAN?
In the latest episode of “As the Racing World Turns” War of Will stamped himself as the horse a lot of people thought he was with an impressive win in the 144th Preakness Stakes. As we thumb through our Webster, let’s think for a minute about what this means in the grand scheme.
For starters, let’s define the run at Old Hilltop on May 18. As it turns out, what was thought to be a curse worked out to be a blessing. Drawing the one post as he did in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Mark Casse was obviously concerned. The rail is usually never a good place in a larger field, especially at a speed-favoring track like Pimlico. After a tumultuous trip at Churchill from the one hole, it was obvious why the veteran conditioner was concerned. In reality, however, the inside spot worked out as jockey Tyler Gaffalione got his horse to relax and rode the rail to victory. Saving ground the entire trip, War of Will was able run inside just off a solid pace. Unencumbered around the far turn, the ever developing rider saw an opening and asked his charge for a little more. Unleashing his powerful stride when called upon, this son of War Front squeezed past Warrior’s Charge and assumed command. As the finish line drew ever closer it became crystal clear who the best horse in race 13 at Pimlico was on May 18. Holding his spot the entire trip the one post went from awful to awesome.
The win from the one post in a thirteen horse field told us Casse’s colt was good enough to win no matter what the draw. When these especially talented athletes are right, obstacles can be conquered. War of Will has displayed some special abilities during his three-year old campaign and we found out where there is a Will, there is a way.
How about what this means as far as Thoroughbred racing is concerned after that historic Kentucky Derby? What we must all understand is the Triple Crown races are not the beginning nor the end. These races come in the middle of the year and can set up some fantastic showdowns as we move through the summer and toward the Breeders’ Cup. Maximum Security certainly has displayed his abilities, now we have seen War of Will is big time as well. Security owner Gary West has issued a $20 million challenge to certain horses (Long Range Toddy, Country House, Bodexpress, War of Will) if they finish ahead of his horse in any race. It would be $5 million apiece of his own money as he looks for a “cage match” race within a race to ramp things up a bit. The offer by West can ramp up the adrenaline a bit and hopefully fuel some rivalry flames that can benefit the sport in average Joe and Jane Sportsfan’s world.
The three-year old male division appears to be reasonably balanced right now with no dominant force. The uncertainty of it all means better payouts for the speculators and tons of excitement. The Kentucky Derby had a record wagering handle this year and the Preakness followed that with a record handle of their own. Is War of Will on his way to assuming the spot atop the division, or is Maximum Security in the catbird seat? And oh yes, what about an on the mend Arkansas Derby champ Omaha Beach who had to scratch out of the Kentucky Derby after an unfortunate health issue? Will that silver-haired slickster from California (Bob Baffert) come into the second half of the year with a top runner as he has in year’s past?
Enough of the jibber-jabber. War of Will’s dominant display in Preakness 144 means we are in for exciting times in the sport over the next five months. Plenty of talent across the board in all divisions of the sport will make for a great Breeder’s Cup in the fall. With the spotlight on a drama-filled three-year old male class, this could draw better ratings than All My Children. Stay tuned…