Bourbon War Breezes at Belmont

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2:27 pm

On a crisp Thursday morning under mostly cloudy skies, Bourbon War put together his final preparations for the Preakness with exercise rider Jose Mejia aboard for the journey.

The son of Tapit breezed over a fast main track at Belmont Park going five furlongs in 1:01.67 in company with stakes-placed stablemate Carlino.

"I thought it went great," trainer Mark Hennig said. "He was a little aggressive. We put those short-cup blinkers on him to make him more aggressive, and I sent him off with Carlino. I think he was just being sharp. He got away from Carlino early and basically just kind of maintained that margin.

"It wasn't quite how I wanted to draw it up," continued Hennig. "I thought they would be right together, but I can understand that Bourbon War was a little more amped up. Carlino likes to come from the clouds."

Bourbon War was a close second in the Fountain of Youth - won by eventual Grade Kentucky Derby runner-up-via-DQ Code of Honor. He was left on the outside looking in for the Run for the Roses after running fourth in the Florida Derby to Maximum Security. Code of Honor was third in the Florida Derby.

The initial backup plan with Bourbon War was to race in this Saturday's Peter Pan, but Hennig altered course and decided to give the horse a shot in Baltimore.

"I watched the Derby and kept on top of all the developments through the week," Hennig said. "Omaha Beach isn't part of the scene, Haikal isn't part of the scene. If Omaha Beach runs in the Derby and wins by 10, maybe we'd go a different direction, but the way it unfolded, the Florida horses ran superb and we felt like we deserved to be competitive with those horses, as we were all winter.

"He's been doing great," Hennig said. "We've been through seven weeks between races with him before. He doesn't need a whole lot, so we don't need to do too much now."

Bourbon War has sported blinkers for his last several works and will wear them in the Preakness. Hennig said that he expects Bourbon War to sit a little closer to the front this time.

"Hopefully midpack, a little closer than he's been," Hennig said. "I don't want to try to make up all that ground by the quarter pole. I think the blinkers will put him where he needs to be. The pace dictates where he needs to be a lot of times. When he ran in the allowance race, he wasn't that far back. Last time, he ended up getting shuffled back and that had a lot to do with it turning for home."

A solid effort from Bourbon War in the Preakness could result in a start in the Belmont Stakes.

"We wouldn't rule out anything," Hennig said. "We have a lot of clients involved that own a piece of the horse that are New Yorkers and they'd love to see him run in the Belmont. But it's all one step at a time."

Bourbon War has won two of his five career starts when breaking his maiden at first asking over the main track at Aqueduct on November 14. Two starts later, he defeated winners over the main track at Gulfstream Park.

Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will have the mount for the Preakness.

Bourbon War is the first foal out of grade 1 winner My Conquestadory and was purchased for $410,000 from the Keeneland November 2016 Mixed Sale.

Edited release