This year’s Triple Crown races are over, but an extraordinary number of contrasts have made this series of races more intriguing than ever.
Some of what made 2019 so fascinating:
- A wide array of winners of the various Kentucky Derby prep races
- The late scratch of presumptive Derby favorite Omaha Beach
- The brilliant effort of Maximum Security crossing the Derby finish line first, only to be set down for interference
- The Churchill Downs stewards declaring rank outsider Country House as the Kentucky Derby winner
- A subsequent lawsuit by Maximum Security’s owners disputing that decision
- Trainer Mark Casse’s War of Will, impeded in the Derby, winning the Preakness Stakes — vindication at Pimlico
- Bodexpress at the Preakness tossing his rider out of the gate, then running loose to create near-chaos with War of Will well-wishers gathering in the path of the free-running, unjockeyed longshot
- Casse’s other horse, Sir Winston, winning the Belmont Stakes with a canny ride by jockey Joel Rosario, successfully racing the son of top sire Awesome Again to profit from an unusually wide journey by favorite Tacitus, who finished second.
Wide Open Three-Year-Old Division
While bettors and fans regroup, so are the nation’s top three-year olds. They’re now dispersing to various tracks and training centers nationwide. Who’ll be best at the end of the year is anyone’s guess. Even the experts are unsure which horse and trainer will dominate the sports’ second season.
Maximum Security, the denied Derby winner, is expected to race next in a prep for the July 20 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park. However just this week trainer Jason Servis says he’s awaiting blood tests on his student after a lackluster weekend exercise session. The federal lawsuit over his Derby DQ continues. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission earlier this week asking the court to dismiss the suit because the “stewards’ determinations are final” and not subject to appeal.
Casse says both his Belmont hero Sir Winston and Preakness winner War of Will are pointing towards the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 24. War of Will is the only horse to compete in all three legs of the 2019 Triple Crown. Tacitus conditioner Bill Mott says his horse is most likely heading to Saratoga, too. Mott, also trainer of Country House, says his Derby winner via DQ is recovering after getting sick right after his big effort at Churchill. It’s unclear when he’ll race again.
California Contingent in Flux
Omaha Beach, after a longer than expected convalescence from surgery in Kentucky to correct breathing problems, is just now returning to trainer Richard Mandella’s shed row at Santa Anita, near Los Angeles. Questions remain. How long it will take for him to resume hard training? Can the Arkansa Derby winner make the $1 million Travers or any of the summer’s major three-year old events?
Bob Baffert, the dual Triple Crown winning trainer, conducts business out of Del Mar, near San Diego during the summer. He’s had little to say about his three-pronged Derby contenders, who were last seen racing in Louisville the first Saturday in May. Game Winner, 2018’s two-year-old champ, may be heading to Saratoga in an effort to re-assert his dominance over the division. Improbable, off the board at Churchill, may be shortening up from races like the 1 ¼ mile Travers. The third Baffert charge, the ultra talented Roadster, could appear anywhere at anytime. As Baffert often tells the media, his horses tell him when they are ready.