Get War Academy an invitation. With a breathtaking 3 ½ length allowance score going 1 1/16 miles on Friday, the Kentucky-bred son of Giant's Causeway is ready to join the Derby party according to both Bob Baffert and Mike Smith.
In only his third start and in his first try around two turns, 4-5 favorite War Academy was 5 ½ lengths behind stablemate Manando with three eighths of a mile to run but easily reeled him in, winning with his ears pricked in 1:43.42.
“He might be my (Derby) horse Bob,” said Smith to Baffert following War Academy's win in Friday's second race. “What I like so much about him is there's sooo much room to improve. He was well, well within himself today.”
War Academy, owned by Michael Tabor, John Magnier and Derrick Smith, broke from post position five in a six-horse field and rated kindly throughout, tracking fractions of 24.41, 48.64, 1:11.89 and 1:36.89. He paid $3.80, $2.20 and $2.10.
Fourth, beaten 2 ½ lengths in the Grade II, seven furlong San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 17, War Academy was a first-out maiden special weight winner going 6 ½ furlongs on Nov. 9 at Betfair Hollywood Park.
With Friday's winner's share of $34,800, War Academy, a $450,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, increased his earnings to $70,800. With the Kentucky Derby looming just seven weeks away on May 4, War Academy will undoubtedly be pointed for a Derby prep in his next start if he is to accrue the necessary qualifying points.
“I'm going to run him in a big prep, he'll hit one of the big preps,” said Baffert. “I don't know where yet, but it'll be a hundred (qualifying) points whatever it is. We're goin' for the bonus round…Mike's always been real high on this horse.”
Manando, who stopped badly as the 2-1 favorite in his previous race, the Grade III, 1 1/8 miles El Camino Real Derby, finished second, 3 ¾ lengths in front of longshot Brokered. Ridden by Martin Garcia, who had ridden War Academy in his first two starts, Manando was the second choice at 7-5 and paid $2.40 and $2.20.
Brokered, off at 17-1 to with David Flores, finished 1 ½ lengths clear of Kid Dreams and paid $2.80 to show.
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