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Improbable favourite for the Preakness

By: Hong Kong Correspondent   May 17 , 2019

The controversy over the disqualification of Maximum Security and awarding the race to Country House is yet to die down. The second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes (Gr 1) is already upon us and it is scheduled to be run on Saturday.

Gary and Mary West, the owners of Maximum Security, are seeking to have the disqualification of Maximum Security overturned through a lawsuit filed on May 14 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Lexington Division, according to the media statement issued by the Wests.

The owners are seeking redress on the grounds of violation of due process rights. The lawsuit asks for a ``reversal of the decision disqualifying Maximum Security and reinstatement of the original order of finish confirming that Maximum Security is the official winner of the Derby.``

The lawsuit also notes that the disqualification of Maximum Security affected wagers estimated to be worth more than $100 million in winnings. Within a couple of hours after the Derby, the online wagering platform and other Churchill Downs related companies announced that they would reimburse winning wagers on Maximum Security.

Interestingly, for the first time since 1951, the Preakness will not have the four horses which crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby.

In the absence of the first four original finishers of the Kentucky Derby, Improbable who was elevated to the fourth position following the disqualification of Maximum Security has been made the Morning Line favourite at 5/2. Improbable, hailing from the powerful stable of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will have the services of Mike Smith who was astride last year`s Triple Crown winner Justify for the same trainer. The City Zip colt drew a favourable post 4 for the $1.5 million Preakness May 15 at Power Plant Live! in downtown Baltimore. Second on the morning line is Gary Barber`s War of Will (4-1), who drew the rail in a field of 13 for the race at Pimlico Race Course.

Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm said he was "happy" with post 4 for Improbable. The chestnut is trained by seven-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert. Walden said. "Posts are usually anticlimactic in the Preakness because there are no more than 12-14 horses and there`s a long stretch. We have Mike Smith riding him, and he`ll know what to do. I feel we`re favoured by default this year,`` Walden said. ``But this horse has a good resume. He ran well in the Derby without hitting the board. After being bunched tightly in the 19-horse Derby field, Improbable can expect a much smoother ride within a small field.`` Bob Baffert will seek a record-setting eighth Preakness success.

Improbable was second in the first division of the Rebel Stakes (G2) and second in the Arkansas Derby (G1) before the Run for the Roses. For Mark Casse, who trains the multiple graded stakes-winning War of Will, déjà vu was not a pleasant experience. After landing the rail in the Kentucky Derby, the 3-year-old son of War Front will once again break from post 1. "The odds of getting post 1 in the Derby and Preakness are 260-1," Casse said. "Nothing is ever easy. I would have preferred to draw outside, but it is what it is, and we have to deal with it." "We definitely know it`s not as bad as the Derby," trainer Mark Casse said. "One thing about it: the 1 hole can be extremely good or it can be extremely bad. In the Derby, it was extremely bad, so I`m thinking we`re going to get extremely good this time."

War of Will ran keen on the inside and was cramped for room and was affected by the outward drift of Maximum Security in the stretch. War of Hill was prominent till the final two furlongs before eventually weakening to finish eighth but was elevated to the seventh position following the disqualification of the winner.

Anothertwistafate wound up with post 12 for the Preakness, but trainer Blaine Wright saw a silver lining in it. "He`s a big, long-striding horse, so we wanted to get him outside," Wright said about the son of Scat Daddy. "It`s OK. We wanted somewhere between 7-9, but we`ll be fine." Anothertwistafate, who was second most recently in the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (G3), was bred in Kentucky by Pursuit of Success. He was pegged at 6-1 on the morning line. Runnymede Racing`s Alwaysmining, a winner of six straight, drew post 7 and will be ridden by Daniel Centeno. The Stay Thirsty gelding, bred by Avla Pitts, will attempt to become the first Maryland-bred Preakness winner since the J. William Boniface-trained Deputed Testamony in 1983.

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