Gary Barber's War of Will has already proven he can compete against the top 3-year-olds in the country when he won the Grade 1 Preakness on May 18 at Pimlico. After running in all three legs of the Triple Crown, the War Front colt will again face top-level talent as part of a six-horse field in Saturday's Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets at Saratoga Race Course.
The 56th running of the Jim Dandy, contested at 1 1/8 miles, is Race 11 on the 12-race card that will also feature the Grade 1 Alfred Vanderbilt and Grade 2 Bowling Green. A traditional prep for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 24, the Jim Dandy will be shown on Saratoga Live, airing from 1-7 p.m.
War of Will, who earned a spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby by winning the Grade 3 LeComte and the Grade 2 Risen Star earlier in the campaign at Fair Grounds, was placed seventh in the “Run for the Roses” on May 4 at Churchill. He roared back to best a 13-horse Preakness field, giving trainer Mark Casse his first career win in a Classic by virtue of his 1 ¼-length score at 1 3/16 miles.
After running ninth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 8 in the 1 ½-mile test won by stablemate Sir Winston, War of Will continued to train, first at Keeneland and Churchill Downs in Kentucky before shipping to Saratoga in preparation for his Spa debut. After two breezes on the main track, Casse said all that's left is for him to prove it on race day.
“He's good and he's ready,” Casse said. “The best way to describe it is that he's in a good place. We're happy. A lot of times, a trainer will say, 'I wish I could have done this or that.' That's not the case here. I'm happy with him. It's up to him now.”
War of Will, purchased for $298,550 as a 2-year-old, has already amassed $1,491,569 in earnings, going 4-1-1 in 11 career starts, earning graded stakes blacktype at Woodbine, Fair Grounds and Pimlico.
After contesting his first four starts on the grass, including a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Summer at Woodbine and a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, War of Will switched to the main track and won his first three dirt starts, including two graded stakes.
“We trained him here last year and he liked the track,” Casse said. “He just reconfirmed this year that he gets over it nicely. We're ready and hopefully he brings his A game. They still have to beat him, I think.”
All 11 of War of Will's previous starts have come against double-digit size fields, and Casse said the nine-furlong distance should suit War of War.
“He's won at a mile and a sixteenth and a mile and three-sixteenths, so a mile and eighth shouldn't be a problem,” Casse said.
Tyler Gaffalione will ride from post 6.
Juddmonte Farms' Belmont Stakes runner-up Tacitus is also back in action for the first time since the “Test of the Champion,” drawing post 5 with regular rider Jose Ortiz back in the irons.
Tacitus finished in the top-three in both of his Classic appearances for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, placing third in the Kentucky Derby following Maximum Security's disqualification before running second by a length to Sir Winston in the Belmont Stakes last month.
The Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets winner has finished in the money in five of his six starts, all at one mile or longer, including a 1 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 9 before winning the Wood at Aqueduct Racetrack a month later.
Entering his first race at Saratoga, the Tapit colt has breezed four times over the Oklahoma training track, including a four-furlong work in 48.71 seconds before the rain came in on Monday.
“He's good; he worked a couple of days ago and looked good this morning,” said Mott, who has won the Jim Dandy three times, most recently with Good Samaritan in 2017. “His works have been very steady. They've been very similar to what they've been all spring. He's good going 9-to-10 furlongs. It looked like he could be good up to a mile and a half, but he can still be effective at a mile an eighth.”
Laughing Fox, fifth in the Preakness, will be looking for his first win since the Oaklawn Invitational on May 4 at the Jim Dandy distance. A $375,000 purchase at the Ocala Breeders' Sale last year, Laughing Fox made his debut at Saratoga in August last year before breaking his maiden at third asking in January at Oaklawn.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who won last year's Jim Dandy with Tenfold, Laughing Fox is a son of Union Rags. Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., aboard for that win on Tenfold, will have the return engagement for Saturday, departing from post 1.
“I'm very pleased with how he's trained up here,” Asmussen said. “Obviously, it's a very good race with who is targeting it. I think that Laughing Fox's best is still ahead of him.”
R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable's graded-stakes winner Tax will rematch against War of Will and Tacitus following a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
After running placing 14th in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Danny Gargan made an equipment change for the Belmont. The Wood Memorial runner-up has been successful running in New York, winning the Grade 3 Withers in February at Aqueduct after running third in the Grade 2 Remsen over the same track on December 8.
“He's doing really well. His hair coat looks better than it's ever looked,” Gargan said. “He's eating better. Ever since we glued his front shoes, he's really come around a lot. I definitely think he's better now than he's ever been. I expect him to move forward three or four lengths. He came out of the Belmont better than he went in it. Ever since that, we've kind of been pointing to this race. He's never gone backwards at all.”
The son of Arch has worked twice at Saratoga since shipping from Belmont, including a four-furlong breeze in 47.09 on Saturday over the main track.
“Obviously, [Tacitus] is a special horse. [War of Will] can run big races, too, and [Global Campaign] is a really good horse,” Gargan said. “It's going to be a horse race. If I could win it, it'd be great. I just want to run big in it. If he keeps going forward, he's got a big future. And, we still have the turf that we've played around with trying but it's hard to put him on it right now because he's doing so well on the dirt. He's definitely getting better with age.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride from post 2.
Grade 3 Peter Pan-winner Global Campaign, owned by Sagamore Farm and WinStar Farm, has earned a trip to the winner's circle in three of his four career starts. The Stanley Hough trainee earned a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his 1 ¼-length win in the Peter Pan at the Jim Dandy distance on May 11 at Belmont, making him the field's only entrant to have cracked triple digits in his career.
Luis Saez will be aboard and will break from post 4.
Centennial Farms' Mihos, fourth last out in the Grade 3 Dwyer on Stars & Stripes Day on July 6 at Belmont, will be looking for his first graded stakes win.
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