BALTIMORE -- A confounding Triple Crown season continued Saturday when Mark Casse-trained War of Will won the Preakness in an upset at Pimlico Race Course.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert could not win his record eighth Preakness with morning-line favorite Improbable. Alwaysmining could not become the first Maryland-bred to capture the state's most important race since Deputed Testamony in 1983.
Instead, the second leg of the Triple Crown went to War of Will, who found redemption, winning by 1 1/4 lengths after going off at 6-1 odds.
An unprecedented Kentucky Derby finish set the stage for a strange run-up to the 144th Preakness. Maximum Security crossed the finish line first in Louisville, only to have his victory taken away by three Kentucky stewards who ruled he had swerved into the paths of other contenders -- War of Will among them -- as they turned for home. The disqualification left 65-1 long shot Country House as an unlikely and controversial Derby champion.
If Pimlico officials hoped for a Preakness rematch, that possibility quickly went out the window. Instead of making plans for the second leg of the Triple Crown, Maximum Security's owner, Gary West, filed a lawsuit in hopes of overturning the Derby result. Then Country House's trainer, Bill Mott, said his horse was sick and would not travel to Baltimore.
Mott's decision left the Preakness field without the Derby winner for the first time since 1996 and just the fifth time in the past 60 years. Only four Derby horses made their way to Pimlico, led by fourth-place finisher Improbable. But the field ballooned to 13 as trainers saw an opportunity to snatch the $1.65 million race with fresh contenders.
The leading storylines often had little to do with the Preakness itself. The death of a filly named Congrats Gal on Friday's Black-Eyed Susan undercard revived anxieties about horse safety that have traumatized the racing industry all year. Plumbing failures in the venerable Pimlico grandstand reminded patrons of the eternal debate over how long the track can last as a viable Preakness host.
At least there was no fog or rain to dampen the Preakness atmosphere this year after the race was hardly visible in 2018.
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