Kentucky Derby 2020 Radar: War Stopper to battle in Withers

January 22, 2020 09:40am

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez appears to have a promising new player for the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail in Salerno Stables’ War Stopper, who charged into focus Jan. 11 with a four-length maiden victory at Aqueduct.

His Aqueduct results earned the son of Declaration of War a 94 Beyer Speed Figure and signaled that the best may be yet to come for the chestnut colt. War Stopper is now being considered for the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers Stakes on Feb. 1.

The son of Declaration of War began his career on the turf, where he was winless in two starts. His luck wasn’t much better when he switched to dirt on Dec. 7, bobbling at the start on his way to a fifth-place finish that day under jockey Joel Rosario.

Things finally clicked for War Stopper in his most recent outing. Equipped with blinkers for the first time and piloted by jockey Jorge Vargas Jr., War Stopper broke sharply and led from the start to capture a one-mile maiden contest.

"It was very impressive,” Rodriguez recently told the NYRA Press Office. “He always showed that he could be a good horse, so hopefully he can keep improving. We've always thought highly of him, but we never got a chance to really see him run.

“…Last time, with the blinkers on, he broke very sharp and was in control of the situation from the gate."

Rodriguez doesn’t feel that War Stopper needs to have the lead in order to win, either. Should the colt line up for the nine-furlong Withers, he’ll let Vargas Jr., determine where to place the colt.

“We've schooled him to take dirt and trained him the right way," said Rodriguez.
But we don't want to change anything now. If he breaks good, see where he takes you. Jorge knows the horse well now.”

The Withers, which pays out Derby points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to its Top 4 finishers, is also expected to include Remsen Stakes (G2) winner Shotski and Monday Morning Qb, a winner of last month’s Heft Stakes at Laurel Park.

Rodriguez, a former jockey, never rode in the Kentucky Derby. But he has once before saddled a contender. Vyjack finished 18th in the slop in 2013.


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About the Derby Radar

Back for the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail, Horse Racing Nation's Derby Radar seeks to identify promising maiden, allowance and even stakes winners who could target points-paying preps down the line. We'll cover the buzz horses, of course, then using a systematic approach based on past years' Derby contenders identify other talented colts moving up the ladder.

Did we miss one? Email editor Jonathan Lintner ( if you know of a horse that should be on the radar.

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