Bourbon War, who fell short of qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, will enter the Triple Crown series at Old Hilltop, the Maryland Jockey Club announced today.
He’s a familiar foe to some of the Derby contenders, finishing second to Derby runner-up Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and fourth behind Maximum Security, Bodexpress and Code of Honor in the Florida Derby.
Previously, the colt had been considered for the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes, scheduled for May 11 at Belmont Park.
“We had a conference call yesterday and speaking with the owners, we felt like after watching the events of the weekend, the Florida horses gave a good account of themselves and we felt we were competitive with them,” trainer Mark Hennig told the Maryland Jockey Club. “So, why not take a shot in the Preakness rather than the more conservative route we were thinking in the Peter Pan?”
The Derby winner, Country House, also seems poised to come to Pimlico Race Course, even if trainer Bill Mott doesn’t sound entirely thrilled with the idea. Mott had previously said he was “elated” when he thought his horse finished second, meaning there wouldn’t be any pressure to pursue the Triple Crown.
Of course, the horse that crossed the finish line first, Maximum Security, was later disqualified after stewards determined there was a foul when he impeded the paths of War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress.
“We’re leaning toward the Preakness, since he is the Derby winner and we don’t want to pooh-pooh the Triple Crown,” Mott said from Churchill Downs. “We want to support that. If he’s real good and continues to do well with no issues, not worn out, all those good things, we’ll keep pecking away and going in that direction. If there’s anything we don’t like as we get into the weekend or early next week, we won’t feel–I don’t feel–a lot of pressure to run him, and talking to the ownership group, I don’t think they’ll put on a lot of pressure, if I’m not happy with him for some reason.”
It looks like there will not be a rematch between Country House and Maximum Security, however.
On the “Today” show this morning, Maximum Security’s owner Gary West said he would not send the wire-to-wire leader to the Preakness, even though he plans on appealing the stewards’ decision on the Derby to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
“I think there’s no Triple Crown on the line for us,” West said on the air. “And there’s no reason to run a horse back in two weeks when you don’t have to.”
But the connections for War of Will may let their horse try to prove himself after the controversial incident. Despite clear evidence showing Maximum Security’s hind legs and War of Will’s front legs nearly interlocked, possibly leading to a terrible crash, War of Will only came out with a small scratch, said Allen Hardy, who works for the horse’s trainer, Mark Casse.
The plan for now is to run him at the Preakness, Hardy said.
“We’re really happy with how he came out of the race. That was probably one of the biggest scares I’ve ever seen, and probably for many others. It was surprising. We checked him head to toe as soon as he came back to the barn. We were expecting something to pop up or see something, and he came out of the race great. He’s happy, he’s healthy. He’s in his feed tub. He’s bright-eyed. He still wants to bite you. So we’re very happy.”
There are two other prospects whose tickets are punched: Maryland-bred Alwaysmining, winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park, and Laughing Fox, winner of the Oaklawn Invitational run in Arkansas. The winners of both races are guaranteed a spot in the Preakness field.