Preakness winner War of Will likely to run in Belmont

BALTIMORE — Owner Gary Barber called trainer Mark Casse for the fourth time in 11 hours since War of Will won the Preakness.

Only this time, Casse was in the middle of holding court with reporters the morning after his first Triple Crown victory.

“All’s good and we’re going to the Belmont?” Casse said to Barber with a Cheshire cat grin. “I was kidding. I was making that up.”

Well, not totally.

Assuming all goes well in the coming weeks, Casse said “there’s an extremely good shot” War of Will goes to the Belmont Stakes on June 8 in New York. If he wins, he’d be the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 to fall short in the Kentucky Derby before capturing the Preakness and Belmont and would be the front-runner for 3-year-old horse of the year.

“It’s the third leg of the Triple Crown, who doesn’t want to win it?” Casse said Sunday. “There are only three Triple Crown races, and they’re pretty important. I think if you can do it you should do it. …

“That’s what we do. We run.”

Those watching the Preakness saw a horse run the entire race and then some after throwing off his jockey out of the starting gate, a scene that — once it was clear rider John Velazquez was OK — served as a reminder of how much thoroughbreds love to run. Bodexpress provided a memorable spectacle as War of Will fulfilled his potential at Pimlico.

The Belmont is another substantial test for the tough and talented War of Will because it’s a third race in six weeks and is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1 1/2 miles.

There won’t be a Kentucky Derby rematch with Maximum Security, who was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, or Country House, who was placed first and since been sidelined by illness. And two-time Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert said he probably won’t take Improbable to the Belmont after finishing out of the money in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness as the favourite.

But War of Will could have to contend with Derby returners Tacitus, Master Fencer and perhaps Baffert’s Game Winner, along with Preakness surprise second-place finisher Everfast, third-place runner Owendale and ninth-place Signalman. Trainer Bill Mott ruled out Country House but is planning to take Tacitus to the Belmont and figures the grey colt will have no problem in a significantly longer race.

“He should handle it fine,” Mott said by phone Saturday. “My guess was that he’d handle the Derby distance fine, which he did. I was pleased. I think it goes the same for the Belmont. I think it’s within his grasp.”

If the Preakness had more than an extra quarter-mile, closers Everfast and Owendale might’ve put a scare into War of Will on Saturday. Everfast was a late entry by trainer Dale Romans three days before the race and opened at 50-1 but showed he might be a good long-distance runner.

“We almost had it,” Everfast jockey Joel Rosario said. “He ran great. We have a great shot at the Belmont.”

Tacitus, Everfast and Owendale will be strong challengers, but this should be War of Will’s Belmont to lose. Had he not endured such a rough trip in and been interfered with at Churchill Downs on May 4, there could be another wave of Triple Crown talk going on right now about a third winner in five years.

But Casse isn’t thinking about that, still grateful War of Will avoided going down in the Derby and was able to rebound and run well in the Preakness. He’ll monitor the horse back at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, to make sure a sore foot and his energy level are good enough to run in the Belmont on a three-week turnaround.

Casse, a 10-time trainer of the year in Canada, can’t predict how War of Will responds this time, but he knows what it would mean if the horse comes out on top once again.

“He’s just an athlete,” Casse said. “It would just show that he’s tough and able to overcome things.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canada prepares as WHO decides whether to declare global coronavirus emergency

Canadian public health agencies are ramping up preparations to deal with the… Continue reading

New virus could trigger travel sector woes akin to damage from SARS in 2003

MONTREAL — A deadly new virus that emerged in China is raising… Continue reading

Switzerland mints world’s smallest gold coin

BERLIN — No joke: Switzerland has minted a gold coin so small… Continue reading

Survey finds support among Canadians for broader assisted-dying law

OTTAWA — As the federal government moves to revise the law on… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

CFL to stage Toronto-Saskatchewan regular-season contest in Halifax

The CFL is returning to Halifax. A CFL source says the league… Continue reading

Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris closes in on White’s X Games medal record

Mark McMorris is on the verge of Winter X Games history. Winning… Continue reading

Aerosmith drummer loses bid to rejoin band for Grammy honours

BOSTON — A judge has told Aerosmith’s drummer Joey Kramer to dream… Continue reading

Canadian superstars Shawn Mendes and Drake among nominees at the Grammys

TORONTO — From Shawn Mendes to Drake, the line-up of Canadian nominees… Continue reading

Gardening: Purchase seeds that fit your values and budget

Spring is only a few months away and it is time to… Continue reading

Ottawa pledges to match funds raised for families of Iran plane crash victims

TORONTO — The federal government promised Wednesday to match all contributions to… Continue reading

Union fined for violating court order in Regina refinery labour dispute

REGINA — A judge has fined a union that represents more than… Continue reading

Most Read