War of Will is the gritty winner of the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes at historic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. This is the first Preakness without the Kentucky Derby victor since 1996.

War of Will at the Preakness
“Wow” horse War of Will scampers home a winner under Tyler Gaffalione in the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes. (image: AP)

The winner, under jockey Tyler Gaffalione, 24 and the youngest rider in the race, benefited from a dream run up the rail to easily best 25/1 outsider Everfast by 1 1/4 lengths in the 1 3/16 mile event for three-year-olds.

As the race started, an unruly Bodexpress dumped rider John Velazquez coming out of the gate, and then went on to run rider-less. The loose horse, however, did not have any impact on the race. Velazquez was uninjured.

“We just had to get a little bit lucky and today was our day,” Gaffalione told NBC on the way to the winner’s circle.

Trainer Mark Casse said, “We just wanted the horse to get his fair shot and today he did.”

Undecided About Belmont Stakes

The winner showed his toughness besting 12 other top-class Thoroughbreds in the 144th edition in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. Fans and bettors were buoyed by the excellent weather and a racing surface rated as fast. Two big race days this year featuring the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January and the Kentucky Derby just two weeks ago were plagued by wet weather and a sloppy racing surface. It’s the kind of surface that always puts into question if the best horse is the winner or just the best horse on a sloppy track.

The excellence of winner War of Will —$14.20-$7.40-$5.40 —, dubbed by trainer Mark Casse as his “Wow” horse, may help quell at least a bit of the controversy since the disqualification of Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security. That horse was taken down from the win and placed 17th at Churchill Downs after stewards determined he veered off a straight path near the top of the stretch and interfered with War of Will, who ended up finishing 8th in the Derby, and then 7th after the DQ bumped him up a spot.

Casse says he would discuss the horse’s availability for the June 8 Belmont Stakes with owner Gary Barber and then make a decision on vying for the third jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. The Belmont is contested at 1/1/2 miles 1/4 mile longer than the Kentucky Derby. Racing fans generally regard the race as “The Test of Champions.”

Bodexpress Preakness
The colt Bodexpress (left) ran 99% of the race without his rider. (Image: USA Today Sports)

$5 million Side Bet for War of Will and Maximum Security?

On Wednesday, Maximum Security Owners Gary and Mary West filed a federal law suit that attempts to overturn the steward’s Kentucky Derby disqualification.

Then, on Friday, the Gary West issued an unprecedented challenge to the horses Maximum Security is ruled to have bothered in the Kentucky Derby.  West said he would put up $20 million of his own money to the owners of Country House, War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress if any of those horses finish ahead of Maximum Security the next time any of them race against him through Dec. 31, 2019.

None of those owners has yet to respond to West. In return, West is asking the owners of the other four horses to give him $5 million apiece if Maximum Security finishes ahead of their horse in the official chart.

The Kentucky Derby’s 65/1 longshot winner via disqualification Country House, skipped the Preakness because of illness and will miss the Belmont Stakes as well, according to his trainer Bill Mott. Right now, it’s unclear if War of Will’s connections go on to the Belmont, whether that might induce Maximum Security to enter the race or if they would engage in West’s multi-million dollar side bet.

For a complete chart of the Preakness Stakes including pari-mutuel prices and trip notes, click here.