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War of Will wins Preakness

Mark Casse completed a lifelong quest two weeks after the scare of a lifetime. And he did so in a race featuring a riderless horse that threw its jockey out of the gate and kept running.

Since he was a child, Casse wanted to win a Triple Crown race, and the well-respected trainer got that victory when War of Will bounced back from a bumpy ride in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness on Saturday.

Casse, 58, was more relieved than anything that his prized 3-year-old colt didn't go down in the Derby, which could've been a multihorse catastrophe, and could finally take a deep breath following the Preakness.

"This is even I think probably more special given everything that we've been through," said Casse, a 10-time trainer of the year in Canada. "I'm not even calling it redemption. I didn't feel like he got his fair shot, and that's all I wanted — a fair shot. And he showed what he had today."

Casse has over 2,000 career victories, including all three legs of the Canadian Triple Crown (Queen's Plate, Prince of Wales, Breeders' Stakes), the Woodbine Mile and four Breeders' Cup events. However, one title that's eluded Casse is the Kentucky Derby, the opening leg of American racing's Triple Crown.

War of Will was unfazed starting from the inside No. 1 post position for the second consecutive race, even though that contributed to his rough run at Churchill Downs. Rising star jockey Tyler Gaffalione guided the horse along the rail in the Preakness and made a move into the lead around the final curve, holding off hard-charging late addition Everfast, who was a nose ahead of Owendale for second.

All the while, Bodexpress — after ejecting Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez — kept running around the Pimlico track and did an extra lap. An outrider tried to swoop in at the top of the stretch and corral Bodexpress, but the horse sped up and passed a few competitors near the finish line and kept going. Technically, Bodexpress gets a did-not-finish.

"He wasn't behaving well," said Velazquez, who added he's fine and would not seek medical attention. "When the doors opened, I was off right from the start and he kind of jumped sideways, and I had my feet out sideways and I lost my balance and went out."

It was yet another bizarre scene in a Triple Crown season full of it.

Two weeks ago at the Kentucky Derby, apparent winner Maximum Security was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, and Country House elevated to first in the only on-track disqualification in the race's 145-year history. Casse was just thankful War of Will was healthy and decided to take his shot in the Preakness even though Maximum Security and Country House didn't run.

It was the first Preakness run without the Kentucky Derby winner since 1996, but the 13-horse field was the largest since 2011. Go back to 1951 for the last time the Preakness was run without the top four finishers from the Derby.

"This is the Preakness," Casse said. "We just won the Preakness. I really don't care who was in it."

Bob Baffert-trained Improbable was in it as the 5-2 favourite and finished a disappointing sixth. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness are the only races of Improbable's career that he didn't finish first or second.

"He just got mad and reared up," Baffert said of Improbable's antics in the starting gate. "After that, he was in a good spot. He just didn't kick."



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