Weekend Takeaways: Plenty left to settle after Triple Crown

May 20, 2019 11:56am

The Belmont Stakes is certainly a race to anticipate, but you can forgive racing fans for wondering what might be looming beyond this year’s Triple Crown.

It won't be a repeat of last year. For all the history he accomplished, Justify never ran after six career starts. Aside from perhaps going up against Catholic Boy and McKinzie, in addition to older horses, he didn’t have anything more to prove against his age group, either.

There are more battles to be waged on the way to a 3-year-old championship in 2019.

Maximum Security has a case given he’s the Grade 1 winner of the Florida Derby who hit the wire first in the Kentucky Derby. On Sunday, trainer Jason Servis reaffirmed in an interview with TVG that the July 20 Haskell Invitational (G1) is a major target, with Monmouth Park’s June 16 Pegasus Stakes available as a local prep.

War of Will’s building quite a resume, too, now as a three-time graded stakes winner this season and a classic hero exiting the Preakness Stakes. He’ll look to add to that list in the Belmont Stakes, plus will always have excuses for defeats in the Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby.

Don’t forget about Omaha Beach, who has won three in a row, including the Arkansas Derby (G1), and should be back from the sidelines in time to contend for some of the season’s top events for sophomores.

If all goes well, the Big 3 from this crop —  Maximum Security, Omaha Beach and War of Will — could each line up in the Travers Stakes (G1) scheduled for Aug. 24. Connections to each have mentioned it in recent weeks.

For Maximum Security, it’s equal spacing from the Pegasus to the Haskell and then the Travers. War of Will would have adequate time to freshen up after contending in all three Triple Crown races. Omaha Beach, however, does need to return to training soon.

And all of this is not to say the likes of Country House, Tacitus and Game Winner, among others, couldn’t jump up as well in a season when there’s plenty left to settle in racing’s glamour division.

Pimlico posturing continues

On Saturday, in his annual meeting with the media at the Preakness Stakes, The Stronach Group’s chief operating officer, Tim Ritvo, said the company spends millions in the upkeep each year of Pimlico Race Course.

But a condemned grandstand was covered by a tarp over the weekend, and plumbing problems resurfaced.

Away from the track, a legal battle continues with the city of Baltimore, which is suing to take over Pimlico and the Preakness.

This is a tired process packed with posturing. Before long, it may leave a permanent stain on the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, wherever it runs.

Is it feasible to rebuild Pimlico? Would the race lose prestige, history and its fan base at Laurel?

Belinda Stronach confirmed the Preakness will return to Pimlico in 2020. Beyond that? It’s about time to make a gamble either way and move forward.

A few more thoughts from the Preakness that was…

 Kudos to Mark Casse for sticking by jockey Tyler Gaffalione. He likened Gaffalione and War of Will to peanut butter and jelly on the Derby trail, but there were rocky moments in both the Louisiana Derby (injured a few strides from the gate) and Kentucky Derby (no need to expand on that).

 Was Everfast a case of bettors in the know, an inside track bias, a perfect pace setup or just dumb luck? We’ll likely never fully know how he, at 50-1 on the morning line, ran up the rail to finish second in the Preakness at 29-1. But given those odds, he had his backers, for whatever reason.

 Warrior’s Charge might not be ready for classic distances, but he looks formidable going 1 1/16 miles and perhaps 1 1/8 later this summer. Trainer Brad Cox mentioned races like the Indiana Derby (G3), and winning those leads into bigger spots. To stay for fourth in the Preakness was huge.

 Why wasn't Bourbon War closing with the rest? Having added blinkers, he never factored in the Preakness. Here’s an intriguing opinion from an expert on herding: 


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