SNIDER: Speed to help War of Will win the Preakness Stakes

Rick Snider
May 17, 2019 - 10:32 am
Who will win the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes?

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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Saturday’s Preakness Stakes is all about the start.

With several speedsters in a lackluster field, long shots could steal the race early just like Maximum Security took the Kentucky Derby before disqualified. With none of the top four Derby runners coming to Pimlico Race Course, it’s a wide-open event where early speed can be decisive.

But, there are so many early runners that they could also burn each other out. The key is jockey Tyler Gaffalione restraining War of Will from his natural early speed and waiting until the stretch. If War of Will can save himself for the stretch, he’ll win in the final yards.

It won’t be easy, though. War of Will drew the No. 1 post that sits awkwardly by the rail and requires either a quick burst to angle away from it or hold back a moment to let others pass. Keeping a thoroughbred from his natural instinct to grab the lead will be difficult. It’s up to Gaffalione to do so because running with the leaders will compromise War of Will. There are just too many of them that will combine for a breakneck pace and suicidal early fractions.

Let’s say War of Will holds back slightly. While he has never won without being on the early lead, he was looking good when sitting in fourth entering the stretch at Churchill Downs before the longer distance in the mud wore him out. With Pimlico built for speed, the track expected to be fast, and one-sixteenth mile shorter than the Derby, the Preakness is set up for War of Will to win at 4-1. 

This is a gambler’s race with potentially high payoffs that require combination bets for triples. Win Win Win (No. 13) is a Maryland horse who dominated at Laurel Park before tiring in the Derby. Maybe he was outclassed, but the Derby’s wet conditions really forced it to be a throwout race. Win Win Win should be right alongside War of Will entering the stretch. He may not have quite enough late kick to settle for second at 15-1.

Your triple should include Alwaysmining (No. 7), who won six straight races at Laurel while rarely not leading. He has the class to beat these second-tier classic runners. A local horse often hits the board and this year there might be two of them.

The favorite, Improbable (No. 4), just doesn’t impress me. He has lost three straight and showed little in the Derby. Maybe he’s the best of the runners coming from Kentucky, but Improbable seems unlikely to bounce back.

A long shot? I don’t like any to win this race, but Bourbon War (No. 2) at 15-1 has some class to use in triples.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks

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