War of Will's post-Preakness gait not lameness, Casse says

May 20, 2019 09:37am

War of Will hadn’t made it back to the barn following Saturday’s Preakness Stakes victory before the social media sleuthing started. Was he lame?

Video from NBC and from those on site at Pimlico Race Course showed abnormality in the winner's gait as trainer Mark Casse discussed running back three weeks later in the Belmont Stakes.

On Sunday morning, Casse told reporters at Pimlico the issue is a neurological condition called stringhalt he first noticed in War of Will after last year's Breeders’ Cup.

“That drove us all nuts -- (assistant trainer David Carroll) and myself for a long time -- and I said after seeing it 150 times I stopped worrying about it,” Casse said. “After the race, the outrider came up to me. He goes, ‘Something happened to him behind.’ And I said, ‘No, that’s just him. That's what he does.’”

Stringhalt, noticeable in the hind legs when a horse walks, is said to be rare in Thoroughbreds. But two horses that ran in the Preakness have it, with Signalman the other.

“It doesn’t affect him on the jog, or the gallop, or obviously in the races,” trainer Kenny McPeek told XBTV last week. “But he walks a little odd, and he’s done it since he’s a yearling.”

According to thehorse.com, stringhalt is an “uncontrollable exaggerated movement of the digital extensor muscles.” There are two types: Australian stringhalt, cause by ingestion of toxic plants, and classic stringhalt, which applies here, has no certain cause and no longterm ill effects due to a hitch in the step.

Stringhalt continues to be researched, the website says, and botox has been used as an experimental treatment to calm symptoms.

Signalman’s stringhalt is a bit more pronounced. Meanwhile, Casse said War of Will’s condition becomes noticeable when the colt is fatigued, such as after the Preakness.

“Any of them, if they're tired, it'll exaggerate it a little bit,” the trainer said Sunday. “He’s not doing it hardly at all this morning.”


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