After nearly clipping heels and falling in the Kentucky Derby, War of Will showed he is genuine, durable and resilient, bouncing back to win the Preakness Stakes with the help of a perfect trip for trainer Mark Casse, jockey Tyler Gafflione, and owner Gary Barber.
He will be the only three-year-old to compete in all three legs of this year’s Triple Crown since he is likely for the June 8 Belmont Stakes.
Kentucky Derby winner Country House recently returned to the barn of trainer Bill Mott after getting sick exiting the Derby. He will miss the Belmont Stakes. Maximum Security, the first horse to ever be disqualified from winning the Kentucky Derby due to a racing infraction, also skipped the Preakness and has been shipped to Monmouth Park where he will most likely prep for the Haskell Stakes in July by running in the June 16 Pegasus Stakes.
Horses exiting the Kentucky Derby that are probable for the Belmont Stakes include Tacitus, Master Fencer, Spinoff, and Tax. Game Winner, trained by Bob Baffert, is also a possibility.
Preakness runners likely to return to face War of Will in the Belmont include runner-up Everfast and third-place finisher Owendale. Intrepid Heart, who finished third in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont, is expected to compete as well.
The three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont may provide an opportunity for a few more horses to take a shot in the mile and a half third leg of the Triple Crown.
West issues challenge
The day before the Preakness Stakes, Gary West, co-owner of Maximum Security, issued a press release offering to wager $5 million head-to-head against the ownership of each of the four horses who raced in the Kentucky Derby who were impacted in the unprecedented disqualification.
The offer is contingent upon the owners of Country House, War of Will, Bodexpress, and/or Long Range Toddy accepting the bet prior to the race.
The release states the bet would be accepted with no restrictions as to “the type of race, what racetrack it is held at, or the distance or the track surface.” The offer is valid for only the next time Maximum Security meets any of the aforementioned horses in a race, whether it is in the same race or four different races.
West said he would donate any earnings from the head-to-head wagers to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. That makes for a potential $20 million donation should all parties accept and Maximum Security once again finishes ahead of his rivals.
More problems at Santa Anita
After six weeks and over 7,000 workouts without incident, the unraced gelding Commanding Coil had to be euthanized last Friday after breaking a shoulder while galloping during the morning workouts at Santa Anita. Marcelo Polanco was the listed trainer.
Injuries of this type are considered rare.
On Sunday, three-year-old first-time starter Spectacular Music reportedly suffered a broken pelvis and was pulled up during the sixth race. Efforts were made to save Spectacular Music, but the decision was made to euthanize him on Monday morning. He was trained by Steve Miyadi.
The two fatalities upped the total to 25 since the Santa Anita meet began on December 26. A possible key looking for similarities to the previous fatal injuries?
It should be noted that both fatalities occurred after rain last weekend. The main track was floated and sealed last week prior to the rain, a similar pattern to January and February when Santa Anita was hit by an unusually large amount of heavy rain and when the bulk of the major injuries occurred.
Santa Anita management sent letters to two trainers last weekend ordering them to vacate their stalls.
Trainer Marcelo Polanco, who currently has five horses at Santa Anita, was cited for training a horse on behalf of another person.
Polanco was listed as the trainer of Commander Coil, the gelding who suffered a fatal injury last Friday.
Trainer Mike Pender, who has approximately 19 horses stabled at Santa Anita, was cited for a horse-welfare issue that was undisclosed as of press time.
The stewards did conduct a hearing with Pender early last week regarding a horse-welfare issue.
Memorial Day weekend stakes
On a much brighter note, the quality of racing at Santa Anita gets a nice boost over Memorial Day weekend.
On Saturday, the Grade II $200,000 Triple Bend Stakes for older horses going seven furlongs, the Grade II $200,000 Charles Whittingham for older horses at 1 1/4 miles on turf and the Grade III $100,000 Daytona Stakes for older horses going five furlongs on turf share top billing.
Sunday, older fillies and mares compete in the Grade II $200,000 Monrovia Stakes sprinting five furlongs on turf, while three-year-old fillies face off in the Grade II $200,000 Summertime Oaks.
There are three Grade I races on Monday, including the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita for older horses going 1 1/4 miles on dirt, the $500,000 Shoemaker Mile for older horses on turf, and the $500,000 Gamely for older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Several shippers are expected to enhance the Memorial Day Stakes, including Lone Sailor and Vino Rosso in the Gold Cup and Synchrony in the Shoemaker Mile.
The most notable shipper, however, may be Delta Prince for the Shoemaker Mile. He is owned by Stronach stables and would be the first Stronach owned runner to compete in California at a Stronach-owned track since Shaman Ghost won the 2017 Santa Anita Handicap.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Friday, Race 7: Two Thirty Five (No. 7). Gelding runs very well fresh and loves the Santa Anita dirt. He gets top rider Flavien Prat for return and appears to be well spotted for victory.
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