Jon White’s Belmont rankings
Two down and one to go. That’s where we are as we close the books on the Kentucky Derby (well, that book may not be closed for years) and the Preakness. But we’re not done, or more specifically, Jon White isn’t done. He wants to get you guys ready for the Belmont Stakes. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the pre-eminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, let’s continue with his analysis of the Triple Crown races and the first look at the Belmont, courtesy of Xpressbet.com. Jon, the floor is yours.
“War of Will is headed to the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 8 after winning the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes last Saturday at Pimlico. The Mark Casse-trained son of War Front got the job done in the Preakness after a troubled trip in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby.
“Entering the far turn in the Preakness, War of Will and jockey Tyler Gaffalione found themselves boxed in. Casse became concerned. It looked like racing luck might again be unkind to War of Will after he had been impeded on the far turn in the Kentucky Derby.
“Casse said that with about three furlongs to go in the Preakness, he thought, ‘Oh, dear, not again’ because War of Will ‘was wanting to go somewhere and he had nowhere to go.’ But at the top of the stretch, War of Will unhesitatingly came through a narrow seam between pacesetter Warrior’s Charge and the inner rail to take the lead just past the three-sixteenths pole. War of Will went on to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths at odds of 6-1.
“The final time of 1:54.34 posted by War of Will made it the second-fastest Preakness since Louis Quatorze won the 1996 edition in 1:53.40. The only faster Preakness than this year’s since 1996 was when Curlin won in 1:53.46 in 2007.
“Maximum Security and War of Will were protagonists in what ranks as one of the most controversial renewals of the Kentucky Derby in its long history. Maximum Security veered out sharply approaching the five-sixteenths pole, then went on to cross the finish line 1 3/4 lengths in front. The stewards disqualified Maximum Security from first and placed him 17th for ‘veering out and stacking up War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress,’ as stated in the Equibase race chart. War of Will finished eighth and was elevated to seventh through the disqualification of Maximum Security.
“Gary and Mary West own Maximum Security. The colt’s DQ in the Kentucky Derby is his lone defeat in five career starts. The Wests have filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to have the stewards’ decision to disqualify Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby overturned.
“According to Equibase, Maximum Security had a four-furlong workout Wednesday in 53.80 seconds at Monmouth Park for trainer Jason Servis. Daily Racing Form’s Jim Dunleavy reported that Servis has the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 20, Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 24 and Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on Sept. 21 under consideration for Maximum Security. The Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth on June 16 has not been ruled out as a return race before the Haskell, according to Dunleavy.
“Servis told Dunleavy that Maximum Security ‘got beat up, cut up in the Derby.’ For Servis to now say that is very interesting because Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby notes the day after the race stated that ‘trainer Jason Servis reported via text message Sunday morning that Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security exited his eventful run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby in good order.’
“Country House, trained by Bill Mott, finished second in the Kentucky Derby at the enormous odds of 65-1. He was declared the official winner of the race after Maximum Security was disqualified. Country House missed the Preakness and will also not be running in the Belmont.
“Three days after the May 4 Kentucky Derby, Country House developed a bit of a cough and acted as if he might be getting sick, Mott reported to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman. After Country House underwent a thorough checkup at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., he returned to Mott’s barn at Churchill Downs on May 17. The expectation is for Country House to resume his racing career sometime this summer.
“With Maximum Security and Country House not running in the Belmont, it appears the field will be headed by War of Will, Tacitus and Game Winner. Tacitus and Game Winner officially finished third and fifth, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby.
“Here are my Belmont Stakes rankings, courtesy of Xpressbet:
1. War of Will
3. Game Winner
5. Sir Winston
7. Master Fencer
8. Intrepid Heart