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Preakness winner War of Will headed for Belmont Stakes

By
Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
War of Will, shown at the Preakness Stakes with jockey Tyler Gaffalione aboard, is expected to compete in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI
War of Will, shown at the Preakness Stakes with jockey Tyler Gaffalione aboard, is expected to compete in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

May 20 (UPI) -- The three top finishers from Saturday's Preakness Stakes, including impressive winner War of Will, could be headed for the final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes on June 8 at Belmont Park in New York.

"I would say there's an extremely good shot he'll be there," trainer Mark Casse said Sunday after reporting War of Will exited the Preakness in good order. "There are only three Triple Crown races. They're pretty important. I think if you can do it, you should do it. The Belmont is the Belmont. It's the third leg of the Triple Crown. Who doesn't want to win it?"

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While the Belmont could produce a rematch with Everfast and Owendale, the fast-closing second- and third-place horses in the Preakness, it won't produce another meeting between War of Will and Maximum Security, the colt disqualified from victory in the Kentucky Derby for crossing in front of War of Will, causing him to check and finish out of the money.

Maximum Security's owner, Gary West, told The Blood-Horse's Bob Ehalt Sunday his colt will pass the Belmont and target the July 20 Haskell at Monmouth Park.

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Casse said his hundreds of congratulatory messages after the Preakness included "a very nice email" from West for him and War of Will's owner, Gary Barber. He said that gesture "was very nice."

West is suing in an effort to have the Derby disqualification overturned and has not confirmed plans for Maximum Security, who skipped the Preakness.

Casse also noted how tough it is for a 3-year-old to go from the Kentucky Derby to the Preakness in just two weeks. Only four horses made both races this year and, other than War of Will, none finished in the top five at Pimlico.

"It would just show he's tough and able to overcome things," Casse said of War of Will, should he compete in all three Triple Crown races. "We saw yesterday that the Derby was very, very trying. I was worried about that with him. He was a little footsore afterwards."

Everfast's trainer, Dale Romans, and Brad Cox, who trains Owendale, both said the Belmont is under consideration for their horses. Cox, like Casse, noted the Triple Crown's three races in five weeks make for a big ask for a young horse.

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"But it's a big purse and it's a prestigious race, and these horses only get one shot in their 3-year-old year," Cox added.

There were some other big races scattered around North America on Preakness weekend. Among them:

Classic

Tenfold took back to next-last after the start of Friday's $300,000 Grade III Pimlico Special, picked things up around the turn and split rivals late to get home first by a neck. You're to Blame was second, another neck in front of Cordmaker. Tenfold, a 4-year-old Curlin colt, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:02.36 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons. The colt is a Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred out of the Tapit mare Temptress. He was third in last year's Preakness, fifth in the Belmont Stakes and won the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga but missed the frame in two previous starts this year.

The Pimlico Special "was a definite target because of how he ran in the Preakness last year," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "This was exactly the outcome we were hoping for ... The sky is the limit for him. I don't think he's really laid his body down yet. He's a sound horse and everything in the pedigree gets better with age."

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On Saturday at Pimlico, King for a Day shook off the rust of a long layoff to win the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes for 3-year-olds by 2 1/2 lengths over Tone Broke. V.I.P. Ticket rallied late to finish third. King for a Day, an Uncle Mo colt out of the French Deputy mare Ubetwereven, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.41 with John Velazquez up. He was 1-for-3 as a 2-year-old with a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at the end of the season.

Distaff

Point of Honor took the wide route throughout Friday's $250,000 Grade II Xpressbet Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico but finished best to score by 1/2 length over Ulele. Cookie Dough made all the early pace and held on for third. Point of Honor, a Curlin filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:47.88 with Javier Castellano scoring his fourth stakes win of the day and fifth overall. It was the filly's third win from four starts. She finished fourth in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks in her previous trip to the track.

Both Point of Honor and Cookie Dough missed the Kentucky Oaks because they were short on qualifying points.

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"We drew a little outside today and you lose ground being wide but I think she likes that kind of trip," said Point of Honor's trainer, George Weaver. "Javier rode her as such. And she went back to where we were in the first place of wanting to go to the Kentucky Oaks and participate in some of these big races. She's just very professional, very classy."

Mylady Curlin was out front all the way in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Allaire Dupont Distaff at Pimlico, then dueled down the stretch with the favorite, Golden Award, before prevailing by a nose. It was 5 lengths back to Gio Game in third. Mylady Curlin, a 4-year-old Curlin filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:47.64, less than 1/2 second off the track record. Luis Saez rode the winner. "The one thing I was concerned about was running her back a little quickly," said trainer Brad Cox. "But she was training well and looked good."

North of the border at Woodbine, Power Gal emerged from behind the early speed to win Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Selene Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 length. Preferred Guest followed the winner from the back of the pack to finish second, 3/4 length to the good of the favorite, Bold Script. Power Gal, a Japanese-bred filly by Empire Maker, got 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.11 with Emma-Jayne Wilson riding.

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Turf

Catholic Boy attended the pace in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Dixie Stakes over the Pimlico greensward, revved it up in mid-stretch and reported first by 1/2 length over Admission Office. Just Howard and the early leader, Real Story, were close behind in third and fourth. Catholic Boy, a 4-year-old More Than Ready colt, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.09 with Javier Castellano aboard for trainer Jonathan Thomas.

Catholic Boy has demonstrated remarkable versatility, winning the Grade I Belmont Derby on the turf last summer, then backing that up with a win in the Grade I Travers on the Saratoga dirt in his next start. He now has seven wins from 11 career starts. Thomas said he is looking at the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park as the colt's next assignment. "Back on the dirt," he said, "but we'll savor this, talk to everybody and see what's next."

At Churchill Downs, Tiz a Slam led throughout the 1 1/2 miles of Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Louisville Stakes and held off the favorite, Shahroze, by 3/4 length under the wire. Nessy and Vettori Kin were close behind in third and fourth. Tiz a Slam, a 5-year-old, Ontario-bred son of Tiznow, got the distance in 2:27.48 with Stephen Behren in the irons. He notched his first win since last July at Woodbine.

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"We had everything go our way today and he ran a really strong race," Behren said. "We had a comfortable lead and he kept going the entire time."

Filly & Mare Turf

Dogtag advanced from well back in Friday's $100,000 Hilltop Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico, circled the leaders heading for home and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Nova Sol rallied from even farther behind to finish second, 2 3/4 lengths in front of Fashion Faux Pas. Chad Brown trains the first two finishers. Dogtag, a War Front filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.71 with Castellano up. It was her first start in more than eight months.

"I'm really happy to have Dogtag back in the winners' circle," said winning owner Jamie Roth of KNJ Foxwoods. "She had some time off and we skipped the Breeders' Cup. It wasn't a matter of talent or class. I don't think she liked the yielding ground" at Churchill Downs on Breeders' Cup weekend.

On Saturday over the Old Hilltop turf, Ickymasho was on the lead early and 3 1/4 lengths out in front at the end of 1 1/2 miles in the $100,000 Searching Stakes for fillies and mares. Vevina finished second, another 3 1/2 lengths in front of Homeland Security. Ickymasho, a 7-year-old, British-bred mare by Multiplex, finished in 2:29.58 with Jose Ortiz in the irons. Ickymasho just missed in two Grade III events in Florida this winter, then won the Grade III Bewitch at Keeneland on her way up from the wintering grounds.

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"After she won the Bewitch, we were planning on waiting and running her at Woodbine," said owner Joe Miller of Triton Stable. "She was doing so well, though, she was acting like she wanted to run. (Trainer) Roger Attfield is a big believer in taking advantage of that. It was his call to run her here, and it was the right one."

Mitchell Road looks like a potential force in the female turf ranks after an impressive victory in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Galorette Stakes at Pimlico. The 4-year-old English Channel filly shot out to a daylight lead and wasn't caught, winning by 2 1/4 lengths. Thewayiam was best of the rest, finishing 1/2 length in front of Viva Vegas. Mitchell Road ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.21 with Joel Rosario riding. It was her fourth straight win and fifth from seven starts for trainer Bill Mott.

"She showed talent from Day One," said Mott assistant Riley Mott. "She's never been out of the exacta and she's developed into a very nice filly." He said the Grade I Longines Just a Game on Belmont Stakes day "would suit her style."

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Turf Mile

English Bee chased down pacesetting Real News and won a sprint to the wire in Saturday's $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes for 3-year-olds at Pimlico by 1/2 length over that one. Shootin the Breeze was third, another 2 1/4 lengths in arrears. English Bee, an English Channel colt, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.60 with Jose Ortiz up. It was his third win from six starts. The Calumet Farm homebred has missed the frame just once in his young career for trainer Graham Motion.

Turf Sprint

Seek and Destroy, at odds of better than 10-1, destroyed her better-backed rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Soaring Softly Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park. After starting last of eight, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Verrazano came five-wide into the stretch, caught the leader at the sixteenth pole and held off Feel Glorious to win by 1 length. The pacesetter, My Galina, finished third and the favorite, Stillwater Cove, was fourth. Seek and Destroy, with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons, ran 7 furlongs on good turf in 1:22.53.

"She ran a wonderful race," Carmouche said. "There were a lot of horses wanting to get through to the inside and I just wanted to get my horse a clear trip. Once I saw those guys stacking up inside, I asked her to run and she took off. I just had to hold them off from there."

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Wild About Star pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 The Very One Stakes for fillies and mares at Pimlico, eased to the lead at the eighth pole and won by 1 3/4 lengths. Jo Jo Air, the favorite, led the way and held second, 3/4 length to the good of Miseracordia. Wild About Star, a 5-year-old mare by Star Guitar, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.93 seconds with Daniel Centeno up. She previously raced in her native Louisiana, primarily against fellow state-breds.

Completed Pass disputed the pace in Friday's $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico, put away the early competition and then outfinished Tempt Me Twice, winning by 1 length. Tricks to Doo finished third. Completed Pass, a 5-year-old, Indiana-bred gelding by Pass Rush, ran 5 furlongs on good turf in 57.35 seconds.

Sprint

Mucho Gusto was much the best in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Lazaro Barrera Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita. Leading from shortly after the start, the Mucho Macho Man colt extended the advantage down the lane to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Manhattan Up and Vantastic got the minor awards. Mucho Gusto, with Joe Talamo up for trainer Bob Baffert, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.96. He now has four wins, a second and a third from six starts and appears to have found a niche sprinting.

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"He's a pleasure to ride," Talamo said of Mucho Gusto. "Anybody could ride this horse. He definitely is really good seven-eighths to a mile. He can for sure go two turns."

New York Central found the inside track to the lead with a sixteenth of a mile left in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Maryland Sprint at Pimlico and got through for a 1 3/4-lengths victory. Proforma and Lewisfield finished second and third. New York Central, a 4-year-old Tapit colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.74 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons. It was his second win of the season with the victories sandwiched around a fifth-place showing in the Grade III Commonwealth at Keeneland. Elliott Walden of part-owner WinStar Farm said the Grade I Met Mile is unlikely -- "Not coming back in three weeks after running hard like this. But maybe something in Saratoga, maybe those Grade I's up there would be something to shoot for."

Lexitonian found just enough room between rivals in the final yards of Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Chick Lang Stakes for 3-year-olds and prevailed by a pair of heads over Gladiator King and Admiral Lynch. The favorite, Preamble, ambled home last of nine. Lexitonian, a Calumet Farm homebred colt by Speightstown, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.74 with Jose Ortiz riding. The win was only the second of his career. "He relaxed really well, because the pace was really fast," Ortiz said. "When I asked him to go, he was there for me the whole time. He didn't switch leads in the stretch, but he was digging in. He was trying, and that's all that matters."

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Filly & Mare Sprint

Covfefe was quickly on the lead in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and drew off smartly down the stretch, winning by 8 1/2 lengths. Please Flatter Me and Tomlin filled out the trifecta. Covfefe, a daughter of Into Mischief, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in track-record time of 1:07.70 without much urging from his jockey, the omnipresent Castellano. The old record of 1:09 was set by Northern Wolf Aug. 18, 1990.

Covfefe, trained by Brad Cox, improved her record to 3-for-4 with the only loss being a fourth-place finish in last year's Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park. "This filly, we've thought she was a superstar from the start," Cox said. "To ship her to a Grade I off breaking her maiden should tell you we like her. She put it together today." He said he will look at the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga.

Chalon, the odds-on favorite, tracked the pace in Friday's $100,000 Skipat Stakes at Pimlico, moved up on the turn and took full command in the stretch, winning by 2 lengths, ridden out by Castellano. Everlasting Secret, at odds of 65-1, set the early pace but couldn't last, finishing second. Hailey's Flip was third at 33-1. Chalon, a 5-year-old Dialed In mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.46. She was making her first start since finishing second behind Shamrock Rose in last fall's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

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"It looked like Javier really had to hustle a little bit to get her into position," said Chalon's trainer, Arnaud Delacour. "Once she got to a spot she was relaxed, and she looked like herself. She finished very well and looked like she had something left."

On Sunday at Santa Anita, Danuska's My Girl dueled to the lead in the $100,000 Grade III Desert Stormer Stakes for fillies and mares and held on at the end, winning by 1/2 length over Show It N Moe It. The only other starter, Yuvetsi, earned $12,000 for finishing 20 lengths farther up the track. Danuska's My Girl, a 5-year-old Shackleford mare, finished 6 furlongs on firm going in 1:10.12 with Geovani Franco up.

Around the ovals

Woodbine

Federal Law came from last of five to win Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Queenston Stakes for Canadian-foaled 3-year-olds by a neck over My Silencer. Dun Drum was another 1/2 length back in third. Federal Law, a Scat Daddy gelding, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.05 with Gary Boulanger in the irons. Mark Casse trains the top two and the race is a prep for the $1 million Queen's Plate on July 29.

Golden Gate Fields

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Visitant outfinished the odds-on favorite, One Bad Boy, in Sunday's $75,000 Alcatraz Stakes for 3-year-olds, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. It was yet another 1 1/2 lengths to Santa Anita invader Kingly in third. Visitant, a Ghostzapper colt, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:36.73 with William Antongeorgi III in the irons. The race came off the turf. Visitant, who didn't start his racing career until March 7, now is 3-for-4 with a second in the California Derby the only blot.

Gulfstream Park

Stormy Embrace tracked the early speed in Saturday's $100,000 Musical Romance Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares, then stormed through the final furlong to win by 10 1/2 lengths. Lady's Island was second and Flora Fantasy completed the trifecta. Stormy Embrace, a 5-year-old daughter of Circular Quay, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.51. Wilmer Garcia rode for trainer Kathleen O'Connell.

Monmouth Park

Wet Your Whistle was along late to capture Sunday's $75,000 Get Serious Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths over Nice Tune with Rocket Heat fading from the lead to get home third. Wet Your Whistle, a 4-year-old Stroll gelding, strolled 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.74 with Alex Cintron up. Nice Tune went to the post at odds of 94-1.

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Goldwood raced just off the pace in Saturday's $78,000 Politely Stakes for fillies and mares, opened the throttle in the late going and scored by 1 1/2 lengths over Mrs. Ramona G. Mominou was third. Goldwood, a 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro out of the Rahy mare Crimson Maple, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.27 with Jose Ferrer in the irons.

Prairie Meadows

Tut's Revenge set a pressured pace in Friday's $50,000 Golden Circle Stakes for 3-year-olds, then inched clear late to win by 3/4 length over Bano Solo. Knox Court was third, 3 lengths farther back. Tut's Revenge, a Kentucky-bred colt by Eskendereya, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:10.02 with Walter De la Cruz up.

Charles Town

Cuttin Edge Tech opened a big early lead in Saturday's $50,000 Fancy Buckles Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares and coasted home first by 2 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Mountineer Cat had a nose in front of Boppin Rocket for place money. Cuttin Edge Tech, a 5-year-old Fiber Sonde mare, ran 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 51.52 seconds for jockey Arnaldo Bocachica.

Emerald Downs

Baja Sur took an early lead in Sunday's $50,000 Auburn Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings and kicked away late to score a 5-lengths victory. Runningwscissors was second, 4 lengths in front of Perfect Dude. Baja Sur, a Washington-bred gelding by Smiling Tiger, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.98 with Franklin Ceballos in the irons.

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Canterbury Park

After a pair of scratches, only three were left for Saturday's $50,000 10,000 Lakes Stakes for Minnesota-breds. Hot Shot Kid proved best, drawing off late and winning by 4 1/4 lengths over Mines Made Up. It was another 7 1/4 lengths back to Speeding Kid in an easy one for the placing judges. Hot Shot Kid, a 5-year-old Majestic Warrior gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:10.08 with Francisco Arrieta in the irons.

The companion $50,000 Lady Slipper, for state-bred distaffers got five into the gate. Ari Gia led most of the way and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Honey's Sox Appeal. Double Bee Sting was another 3 1/2 lengths back in third. Ari Gia, a 5-year-old Giacamo mare, reported in 1:10.29 with Arrieta scoring the double.

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