The last time the racing world saw War of Will, the 3-year-old colt was a fading fifth in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. That was in late July and after that race trainer Mark Casse thought it was time to regroup.
That time is done.
War of Will, who earlier this year was a major player in the Triple Crown, is back. The son of War Front is the 4-1 morning-line third choice for Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa.
And, heading into the 1 1/8-mile race, Casse is gushing over how Gary Barber's colt is doing.
“He is fantastic,” Casse said. “He looks good. He has put on some weight. He has matured. He is sharp. He is ready. Now, it's just a matter of having some good racing luck.”
War of Will will ship to Parx from Belmont Park Saturday morning.
Casse is optimistic, but knows War of Will is coming into this race off two straight subpar performances. Before the Jim Dandy he was a non-factor in the Belmont Stakes, finishing ninth and 7 1/4 lengths by stablemate Sir Winston.
“He had an excuse in the Belmont,” Casse said. “I don't think he liked the track at all. As far as Saratoga, he was just disappointing.”
War of Will uncharacteristically took jockey Tyler Gaffalione to the lead in the Jim Dandy and ended up beating just one horse.
War of Will breezed five times since, the last two workouts at Belmont. He has recorded bullet works in three of those breezes, the latest a half-mile in :47.40 last Saturday.
The Pennsylvania Derby will be War of Will's eighth start this year. He is the only horse that ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown. In the Kentucky Derby, he was at the center of the controversial disqualification of Maximum Security.
War of Will was bothered by Maximum Security at the top of the stretch and ended up finishing eighth (although moved up to seventh following the DQ). Maximum Security, who was the morning-line favorite in the Pennsylvania Derby before being scratched Tuesday, ended up placed 17th in the Run for the Roses.
None of that matters much now to Casse, who just wants to see his horse show his true talents when the Parx gates open for the Pennsylvania Derby at 5:48 p.m. Saturday.
“He has done a lot of good things and there is no question he is an extremely talented horse,” Casse said. “His last two races have tarnished his reputation a little bit. We're anxious to regain that.”
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