Photo: Yuji Noda
A basic unknown to the casual American race fan, other than possibly as the horse who won Animal Kindgdom's final career start, Declaration of War is coming to Santa Anita to run the final race of his own successful career in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. So just who is this horse that has given his connections reason to believe he can compete against our best dirt horses in our richest race?
Born and Bred in the U.S.
Declaration of War is a Kentucky homebred for one of his owners, Joseph Allen. Sired by the red-hot young Claiborne stallion, War Front, and out of the Rahy mare, Tempo West, Declaration of War comes from the same female line as a pair of Belmont Stakes winners in Colonial Affair and Union Rags.
Synthetics in France
Declaration of War was originally sent to France with trainer, Jean-Claude Rouget. In only two starts as a juvenile, he proved that he is more than only a grass horse. He went undefeated, accounting for a pair or races on all-weather surfaces at Pornichet la Baule and Deauville Racecourse. The second of which, he ran off from a large field to win by eight lengths.
Coolmore Enters the Picture
Having shown promise at two, the colt was coveted by one of world’s big players, Coolmore. They purchased a majority interest in the undefeated colt early last year, and shipped him to Ireland, and the Ballydoyle yard of Aidan O'Brien. His undefeated streak ended when he finally made it to the races for his new trainer in September and finished fourth against older horses at The Curragh. Bouncing right back, he won his next two starts, including the Group 3 Diamond Stakes in October. His first stakes score was also his third on an all-weather track. Taking the 1 5/16 miles race at Dundalk Racecourse, with the trainer’s son, Joseph O'Brien, in the saddle.
A Star at Four
Declaration of War took things to a whole new level in his third season of racing. He began 2013 with an easy win in the Heritage Stakes at Leopardstown in April. From there he has maintained a steady diet of Group 1 races through the spring and summer. His most six recent races have all come in the highest class of turf racing, and while his record is only 2-for-6, Declaration of War has proved himself one of the best middle distance horses in all of Europe. His first huge win came at Royal Ascot, where he scored in the prestigious Queen Anne Stakes over a stellar cast that included our 2011 Kentucky Derby winner. Declaration of War lost his next three, but performed well each time against the best in Europe. His most recent start was probably his best yet as he rolled down the York stretch to impressively defeat a Juddmonte International field that included, Trading Leather, Al Kazeem and Toronado at ten and a half furlongs.
Breeders’ Cup or Bust
When the turf at Ascot came up very soft for last Saturday’s Champion Stakes, his team chose to scratch him with an eye firmly on California. So now the Breeders’ Cup Classic becomes his final race before retirement to stand at Coolmore Stud. While this will represent his first try on dirt, he has already proven versatile in both distances and surfaces in Europe, while winning 7-of-12 lifetime.
So what are his chances in the Classic? Here is what his world famous trainer has to say:
“Declaration Of War has danced every dance this season and will have one more run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” said O’Brien. “He has an unbelievable constitution and is a lot like Giant’s Causeway, a big, powerful, strong traveller, so we’re hopeful that he’ll run well.”
Remember, Giant’s Causeway gave Tiznow everything he wanted in the 2000 edition of the Classic for these same connections. And like Giant’s Causeway, he is by a versatile sire, and out of a Rahy mare. Dirt should suit Declaration of War just fine. Food for thought.