The Turf-Bred Kentucky Derby Contender War of Will
It is not too often that a horse bred so perfectly for turf success will excel on a dirt track, but these types of horses do emerge from time to time. War of Will is one of these horses whose pedigree suggests great turf success but instead found their success on the dirt track.
Breeder Flaxman Holdings Limited paired Visions of Clarity, a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Spinning World, with War Front. The mating produced War of Will on April 17, 2016.
War of Will grew up at Oak Tree (a division of Lane’s End). As he grew older, War of Will’s good looks attracted him a lot of attention. In addition to being easy to look at, he was eager to please and well behaved.
The 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale saw War of Will fail to reach his reserve price of $175,000. War of Will’s failure to sell prompted Norman Williamson to privately purchase the horse to sell in Europe the following year.
After receiving some schooling, War of Will was entered into the European Arqana May 2YO Breeze Up Sale in 2018. He was purchased for $298,550 by Justin Casse for Gary Barber. He was then shipped back home to the United States.
Finally back in the U.S. and now in trainer Mark Casse’s barn, War of Will began preparing for his maiden debut. He made his debut on the turf at Woodbine, finishing third. He then finished a trying second in the Gr.2 Summer Stakes before shipping to Keeneland.
At Keeneland, War of Will failed to hold on in the Gr.3 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes, finishing fourth. He was then entered into the Gr.1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf where he finished a disappointing fifth.
War of Will had failed to win any of his four starts on the turf, so his connections decided to try him on the dirt in a maiden special weight at Churchill Downs. He showed his connections it was the change he needed by soaring from off the pace on a sloppy track to a 5 length win.
2019 started for War of Will in the Gr.3 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds. He easily won the race by five lengths. At this time, War of Will began growing a legion of supporters. His attractiveness to the eye and obvious talent on the track had many hoping he would hold a spot on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
War of Will kept this dream alive for his supporters and connections by holding off a field of horses like Country House and Roiland in the Gr.2 Risen Star by 2 ¼ lengths. His back to back wins at Fair Grounds earned him the title of “favorite” in the Gr.2 Louisiana Derby.
It was almost certain that War of Will would win (or so it was thought). However, War of Will lost his footing slightly after the start, causing his hind end to drop. He never truly recovered, finishing ninth of eleven horses.
It was found that War of Will had strained his right hind leg during the race. For a moment it was uncertain that War of Will would still be able to run in the Kentucky Derby. However, he was cleared to resume training and has been working well ever since.
The rough Louisiana Derby has caused some to view War of Will as less desirable in the Kentucky Derby. However, War of Will is a seasoned racehorse that could be undefeated on dirt if he hadn’t had a problematic Louisiana Derby. He has also been posting strong workouts in preparation for the Kentucky Derby with the most recent being a 4f breeze at Churchill Downs on April 27. He finished in 47.60, the fastest of 79 horses that day.
Tyler Gaffalione will be in War of Will’s irons on the first Saturday in May.
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