Kentucky Derby DQ Victim Is Ready to Roll: David Papadopoulos
(Bloomberg) -- The wildest Kentucky Derby in recent memory appears to have wiped out most of its key protagonists.
The disqualified first-place finisher, Maximum Security, was whisked away to the Jersey shore for a little R&R by his infuriated owners. Country House, the horse that was elevated to first by the disqualification, came down with a cough, we’re told, and is out of action for a while. And the runner-up, Code of Honor, is being given a break until the summer. Sweet.
But amid all this preciousness, the colt that was actually banged around the worst by Maximum Security’s shenanigans late in the Derby, War of Will, is soldiering on. He’ll be one of 13 horses in the starting gate Saturday for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes. And I’m betting on him.
As well as the horse performed in the Derby -- he crossed the finish line just a few lengths behind the leaders after nimbly recovering from the collision -- he can run better. He was too pumped up in Louisville, too headstrong and eager to rock and roll as soon as the gates flew open. All down the backstretch, he tugged at his rider, prying his mouth open and throwing his head up in the air. Those kinds of antics can wear a horse out fast. It’s amazing, frankly, that he had as much left in the tank in the stretch as he did.
Now, part of the reason War of Will was so amped up, I suspect, is that he had gone six weeks without running a race before the Derby. For a high-spirited horse like he is, that’s probably too long. And it left him with too much bottled-up energy. Mark Casse, War of Will’s trainer, told me that in the days prior to the race, this concern did cross his mind once or twice. In watching his morning gallops, Casse could sense the horse was jumping out of his skin.
The big effort he put forth in the Derby, though, should take the edge off a bit, just enough to help him chill out in the early stages of the Preakness. Of course, there’s always the possibility that a grueling race like that takes too much starch out of a horse and leaves him wiped out (see Country House), not chilled out.
But don’t worry too much about that with War of Will. When he arrived in Baltimore earlier this week by van from Louisville, he was so full of himself, Casse’s team took him right to the track to burn off some energy.
“He’s a unique horse,’’ Casse said when we spoke last week. “He amazes me -- his agility, how he doesn’t get tired.’’
I like the value he’ll offer at 4-1. I’m betting him to win and then, in an effort to juice returns some, will play him in exactas on top of a pair of long shots -- Bourbon War and Warrior’s Charge.
(David Papadopoulos, a senior editor at Bloomberg News, is a voter in the thoroughbred industry’s annual Eclipse Awards. He has been publishing his Triple Crown picks since 2012.)
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