Zipse: It's time for War of Will to bounce back – again

July 23, 2019 08:53am

On Saturday at Monmouth Park, Maximum Security bounced back from an unexpected loss with a brave victory in Monmouth Park's Haskell Invitational (G1). It was a win that puts the son of New Year's Day right back on track for a possible Eclipse Award.

A week later, it'll be War of Will's turn to prove himself once again as one of the best 3-year-olds in the nation as t
he focus of America's glamour division shifts from the Jersey Shore to upstate New York. Saratoga will host the Jim Dandy (G2) on Saturday, and the expected field, topped by the Preakness winner, looks like a good one. 

He may be the most accomplished horse in the Jim Dandy field, or as any sophomore in the country, for that matter, but don't necessarily look for War of Will to go favored in Saturday's feature at the Spa. That's because a strong season to date has not been without hiccups for the classic winner.
Big wins have been followed by disappointing defeats.

A five-length romp in his dirt debut to close out last season opened the door for big things in 2019 for the son of War Front. He's lived up to his connections' expectations, but still, the year has been full of excellent performances in spite of bad luck and strange circumstances.

A pair of visually impressive victories began War of Will's year, as the well-bred bay accounted for both the Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds. But then strong favoritism in the Louisiana Derby (G2) started and ended in puzzling fashion, as War of Will took a funny stride just a few steps out of the starting gate on his way to a ninth-place finish.

Undeterred, his team liked the way War of Will trained following the bizarre race, and his next start came on the first Saturday in May. Looking to be running a big one coming out of the Kentucky Derby far turn, he was interfered with by Maximum Security and ultimately faded back to eighth across the wire. The incident caused the first race disqualification of the winner of the Kentucky Derby in the long history of America's most prestigious race.

Thankfully, War of Will returned from the roughly run Derby none the worse for wear. Despite the pair of off-the-board finishes, trainer Mark Casse and team did not waver in confidence of their prize colt. Brought back two weeks later for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, War of Will rewarded their belief, riding the rail to a smart score in the Preakness Stakes (G1).

Three weeks later War of Will became the only horse to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown. Unfortunately, he once again was bothered in the running and had little left for the stretch of the 1 1/2-mile test. A ninth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes leaves him with three big wins this year, matched by three off the board finishes.

It was a eventful first half of the year for War of Will. Next, he once again looks primed to demonstrate his class and talent. 

“It was honestly one of his best works to date, really," said regular rider Tyler Gaffalione after hopping off War of Will from his most recent work, going four furlongs in
49.33 seconds Friday morning at Saratoga. "He seemed to love the track, handled it real well, and was full of energy. Every week he's just getting stronger and stronger."

His trainer was equally upbeat after the move over the main track at Saratoga. 

"If you want to see poetry in motion for a horse, and what you would like to see out of a racehorse – he's what it is. He's the entire package," said Casse.
"I think he's a bigger, stronger horse. He's definitely carrying more weight now than he was for the Derby, Preakness or Belmont."

In Saturday's nine-furlong Jim Dandy, War of Will will be making his first start since the Belmont. Not only is he working well, but his tactical speed should be a valuable asset in the major prep for the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes (G1).

Primed and ready to bounce back again, War of Will will need to be at his best to earn his fourth graded stakes victory of 2019.

Among his challengers include a pair of horses who could actually be bet below the Preakness winner on Saturday. Tacitus, most recently a rallying second in the Belmont, figures to garner plenty of support. If he's entered, so too would Code of Honor, an eye-catching winner of Belmont's Dwyer (G3) in his latest.

Throw in the likes of Peter Pan (G3) winner, Global Campaign, Withers (G3) winner, Tax, and the Oaklawn Invitational winner, Laughing Fox, and you have the makings of one of the best 3-year-old fields of the year. 

 

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