Gary Barber’s War of Will was at the center of the controversial disqualification two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby (G1), but on Saturday the bay colt had a clear path to victory at Pimlico to give trainer Mark Casse and jockey Tyler Gaffalione their first wins in the 144th Preakness Stakes (G1).
Par for the course in this year’s Triple Crown series, the race was not without incident as Bodexpress leaped in the air at the break and sent jockey John Velazquez tumbling to the track. Bodexpress caused no trouble racing on the outside as Warrior’s Charge led the way up front through splits of :22.50, :46.16 and 1:10.56.
Anothertwistafate and Market King pressed the pace outside of Warrior’s Charge while Gaffalione kept War of Will in a ground-saving trip just behind the leader on the inside. Turning for home, the rest of the pack converged upon Warrior’s Charge, with a long line of runners extending out into the center of the track as they rounded the bend.
War of Will maintained his inside path, though, and pulled off by 1 1/4 lengths to finish 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.34 over the fast main track.
Everfast, the second longest shot on the board, came flying up the inside from the back of the pack to take second by a nose over Owendale, who was one of those fanned way wide on the final bend. Warrior’s Charge followed by another 1 1/4 lengths and took fourth by that same margin over Laughing Fox.
Improbable closed to just miss fifth by a nose and was followed under the wire by Win Win Win, Bourbon War, Signalman, Anothertwistafate, Alwaysmining and Market King. Bodexpress was finally caught after leading the outriders on a merry chase around the oval.
War of Will returned to the winner’s circle in this spot following a pair of unplaced runs in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Kentucky Derby (G1). Prior to that, the War Front colt racked up three straight victories in his first tries on dirt, including the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and Risen Star Stakes (G2).
The colt was favored to complete a sweep of Fair Grounds’ Kentucky Derby preps in the Louisiana Derby on March 23, but was out of that race earlier when his hind end slipped exiting the gate. He finished ninth, his worse loss to date, but recovered from what Casse termed a likely muscle strain and trained well into the Kentucky Derby.
War of Will found himself at the center of a major controversy when Maximum Security appeared to shy off the rail and into War of Will’s path in the Kentucky Derby on the final turn. Multiple replays showed the pair’s legs tangling but they kept running, with Maximum Security winning the race by 1 3/4 lengths.
A jockey’s objection from the rider of runner-up Country House saw the inquiry sign being lit and, following a 20-miniute review, Maximum Security was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress. War of Will was elevated to seventh following his eighth-place Kentucky Derby finish.
War of Will is now 10-4-1-1, $1,491,569 in his career after opening his time on track with a quartet of turf races. The bay finished third in a maiden prior to just being caught in the Summer Stakes (G1) last year at Woodbine. He then shipped to the United States and once again tiring late to be fourth after setting the pace in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in October.
War of Will made his first appearance under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and round up fifth over the yielding course. He closed out his juvenile campaign trying the dirt for the first time and recorded a five-length romp at Churchill on November 24.
Bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings Ltd., War of Will is out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Visions of Clarity and counts as half-brothers Group 1 hero Pathfork and dual stakes winner Tacticus. The Irish-bred Visions of Clarity is herself a half-sister to top sire, multiple Grade/Group 1 victor and dual highweight Spinning World.
War of Will’s third dam is Group 1 queen Aviance, from whom is descended the likes of champion Aldebaran and multiple Grade/Group 1 winners Chimes of Freedom, Saddex, Lizzie l’Amour and Denon.