By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Sports Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) – Mark Casse completed a quest for a lifetime two weeks after the dread of his life. And he did it in a race featuring a riderless horse who threw his jockey out the door and kept running.
Since his childhood, Casse wanted to win a Triple Crown race, and the respected coach had that win when War of Will rebounded after a bumpy run in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness on Saturday.
Cassie, 58, was more relieved than anything his beloved 3-year-old colt did not go down in the Derby, which could have been a multi-horse disaster and could finally take a deep breath after the Preakness.
"It's even, I think, probably more special considering everything we've gone through," Casse said. "I do not even mention redemption, I did not think he'd got his shot just right, and that's all I wanted, a fair shot." And he showed what he had today. "
War of Will was unfazed from inside the front row for the second consecutive race, although that contributed to his tough race at Churchill Downs. Rising star, jockey Tyler Gaffalione, guided the horse along the rail in the Preakness and took advantage in the lead of the final corner, holding off the mighty addition Everfast, which had outstripped Owendale in second place.
All the while, Bodexpress – after ejected the Hall of Fame jockey – John Velazquez – continued to run around the Pimlico track and performed an extra lap. A rider attempted to dive at the top of the stretch and connect Bodexpress, but the horse sped up and overtook some competitors near the finish line. Technically, Bodexpress gets an unfinished.
"He was not behaving well," said Velazquez, who added that he was fine and that he would not consult a doctor. "When the doors opened, I left early and it kind of jumped to the side, I had my feet to the side and I lost balance and I went out."
It was another bizarre scene in a Triple Crown season.
Two weeks ago, in the Kentucky Derby, Maximum Security, the apparent winner, was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, and Country House climbed to the top spot of the only disqualification on the track of its 145 years of history. Casse was just grateful that War of Will was in good health and decided to try his luck in Preakness even though Maximum Security and Country House did not show up.
This was the first Preakness race without a winner of the Kentucky Derby since 1996, but the 13 horse pack was the largest since 2011. Return in 1951 for the last time the Preakness was run without the top four of the Derby .
"It's the Preakness," Casse said. "We just won Preakness, I do not care who was in it."
Unbelievable, Bob Baffert coach, was favorite 5-2 and finished sixth, which is disappointing. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness are the only races in Improbable's career not to finish first or second.
"He just got angry and growing up," Baffert said of Improbable antics in the starting gate. "After that, he was in a good position, he just did not kick."
War of Will had a lot of kicking and set out to become the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 and the 19th of all time to stand out in the Derby, but to win the Preakness and Belmont. Winning Preakness's $ 1.5 million win over Everfast, who was only registered on Wednesday, was another illustration of War of Will's mix of talent and courage.
"He has so much heart," said Gaffalione. "We always knew that he had the ability, we just had to have a little luck, and today was our day."
It's a breakthrough for Gaffalione, who has become a rising star since he was named Best Rider Apprentice in 2015. Gaffalione, 24, was aboard War of Will for the Colt's sixth consecutive race and won the biggest win of his young career.
"It really has not happened yet," said Gaffalione, who received advice from idol Jerry Bailey on Saturday morning. "I can not even put it into words."
Casse had a lot of words after the controversial situation in the Kentucky Derby which resulted in a lawsuit by the owners of Maximum Security, Gary West, and a 15-day suspension imposed on jockey Luis Saez. He blamed West for blaming War of Will and Gaffalione.
West eliminated Maximum Security from the Triple Crown circuit, but Casse was eager to put War of Will back on track two years after Classic Empire finished second in Preakness. After the death of 24 horses at Santa Anita Park since December 26th and a persistent quarrel over the future Preakness site, Casse's first victory, Triple Crown, is a redemption story for him and the horse, even though it's not the same. he does not do it. I do not want to call it like that.
"I am very happy that Mark gets his first victory in Classic," said Gaffalione. "Very happy for the horse, he deserved it more than anything, he is so special."