Mark Casse had already had a special Triple Crown racing season before Saturday's Belmont Stakes because War of Will had been victorious in the Preakness Stakes.
He had high hopes that the Preakness winner would have another strong effort in the 1 ½-mile race, but after also running in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, he knew there was a chance War of Will would not have much left in the tank.
That turned out to be the case, as the Preakness winner finished ninth out of 10 in New York. However, Casse was still all smiles after the race because Sir Winston was able to finish first with a time of 2:28.30 to take the third jewel of the Triple Crown.
Casse trains Sir Winston, supposedly his other horse in the Test of Champions. However, jockey Joel Rosario produced a stellar tactical ride, keeping Sir Winston on the inside throughout the majority of the race so he could save ground and retain his strength for the stretch run.
Those tactics worked perfectly, with race favorite Tacitus never able to save any ground in his run. He started from the No. 10 hole, and while the thought was that he could settle in at some point, he couldn't get close to the inside. Tacitus mounted a charge down the stretch, but he was unable to catch Sir Winston and had to settle for second place.
"I could see where War of Will was struggling a little," Casse said in his NBC interview with Kenny Rice after the race. "He looked like maybe he was a little flat."
Finish: Horse; Jockey; Trainer (Payout)
1. Sir Winston; Joel Rosario; Mark Casse ($800,000)
2. Tacitus; Jose Ortiz; Bill Mott ($300,000)
3. Joevia; Jose Lezcano; Gregg Sasco ($165,000)
4. Tax; Irad Ortiz Jr.; Danny Gargan ($90,000)
5. Master Fencer; Julien Leparoux; Koichi Tsunoda ($45,000)
6. Spinoff; Javier Castellano; Todd Pletcher
7. Everfast; Luis Saez; Dale Romans
8. Intrepid Heart; John Velazquez; Todd Pletcher
9. War of Will; Tyler Gaffalione; Mark Casse
10. Bourbon War; Mike Smith; Mark Hennig
Betting Payouts (Win, Place, Show)
Sir Winston ($22.40, $8.80, $6.10)
Tacitus (N/A, $3.90, $3.20)
Joevia (N/A, N/A, $8.70)
$2.00 Exacta (7-10): $96.00
$1.00 Trifecta (7-10-1): $1,244.00
$1.00 Superfecta (7-10-1-4): $10,428.00
Jockeys' tactics in any race often play a key role in the outcome, and that was clearly the case in the Belmont Stakes. The pace was set by long shot Joevia, and it was slow. That made it difficult for the stronger stretch runners to pass the early leaders because they did not use most of their energy early in the race.
The first quarter-mile and half-mile respectively went in 23.92 and 48.79 seconds. Those times were bad news for those betting on the come-from-behind horses, and it got even worse when a time of 1:13.54 flashed for the three-quarter-mile mark.
That meant the slow pace was continuing, and there was a chance the front-runner could control the race. However, since Sir Winston was able to save ground, he was able to rally even though he was in seventh place after a mile.
Joevia still had the lead at that point, with a time of 1:38.27. By the time the horses had run 1 ¼ miles in 2:02.72, Sir Winston had charged to the lead.
Sir Winston ended up beating Tacitus by one length, and that horse edged out Joevia by the same distance to take second.
The eventful Triple Crown racing season concluded with Country House being awarded the Kentucky Derby because Maximum Security was disqualified, War of Will winning the Preakness Stakes and Sir Winston registering an upset in the Belmont Stakes.
Any one of these colts could make a case for horse-of-the-year honors, something that won't be decided until the Breeders' Cup in early November.
But the horse of the moment is Casse's other charge, Sir Winston. That's more than enough for the trainer, his connections and all race fans who backed him in the Belmont Stakes.
All times and placements according to Equibase.