Six months ago, some Thoroughbred owners and buyers would have wavered on the question of buying a young prospect by the distinguished Claiborne Farm sire War Front (by Danzig) due to the misperception that he was a “turf sire.” The versatile sire had more recently had major successes with numerous racers in Europe, where the predominant racing surface is turf.
Today, however, the brawny bay stallion is the sire of two colts who stand high among the favored prospects for the 2019 Kentucky Derby, including Omaha Beach, winner of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 13. In that race on Saturday, Omaha Beach led for much of the contest, then held Improbable safe by a length down the stretch at Oaklawn Park as both colts drew off from their competition in the nine-furlong event.
The other colt by War Front with a date on the first Saturday in May is War of Will, who won both the Lecomte and the Risen Star Stakes earlier this year. After War of Will finished a perplexing 9th in the Louisiana Derby as the favorite, he was shipped to Keeneland to continue training for the Derby. On the morning of the Arkansas Derby, War of Will breezed five furlongs from the gate at Keeneland in :59, the fastest of 44 works at the distance.
So both colts appear to be on schedule for the Kentucky Derby, and breeders are being reminded of how great a dirt sire War Front is. This is, in fact, the third time the stallion has had a pair of classic contenders out of the same crop.
From War Front's first group of racers, both G1 winner The Factor and G2 winner Soldat made names for themselves and propelled their sire to stardom. In 2011, The Factor won the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn before disappointing in the Arkansas Derby and missing the classics. Later that year, he won the G1 Pat O'Brien at Del Mar and the Malibu at Santa Anita. In the spring of 2011, Soldat was one of the best colts in Florida, winning the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream but finished 11th in the Derby.
From the stallion's third crop came another pair of classic prospects. Multiple G2 winner Departing won a trio of Derbys (Illinois, West Virginia, and Super), and he finished third in the Louisiana Derby and sixth in the 2013 Preakness. From the same crop, Lines of Battle won the UAE Derby before coming to Kentucky, where he defeated a dozen horses but still finished seventh.
In addition to the contribution of his famous sire, Omaha Beach has a very successful female family. The bay colt is the second G1 winner out of his dam, the Seeking the Gold mare Charming. Her other top-class winner was Take Charge Brandi, who captured the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Starlet Stakes and who was named the 2014's champion 2-year-old filly.
Their dam Charming is out of multiple G1 winner Take Charge Lady (Dehere), and that lovely racehorse and broodmare has produced a pair of G1 winners herself. They are the half-brothers Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy), winner of the 2012 Florida Derby, and Will Take Charge (Unbridled's Song), winner of the Travers Stakes and Clark Handicap, who was named champion 3-year-old colt in 2013.
Both ran in the Kentucky Derby. Take Charge Indy was 19th in 2012, when only three horses went off at shorter odds, and Will Take Charge was eighth behind Lines of Battle in 2013, then seventh in the Preakness, and 10th in the Belmont Stakes. The striking chestnut came back to win the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby, finish second in the Breeders' Cup Classic by a nose to Mucho Macho Man, with Declaration of War (War Front) a head back in third. Will Take Charge closed his 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Clark, and that year-ending quartet of excellent races got him the Eclipse.
On Saturday, Omaha Beach landed a G1 success and now has the daunting question of whether he can become the member of the family to stand up for classic glory.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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