Grade 1 Preakness winner War of Will put in his breeze for the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets on Friday morning on the Saratoga main track.
Tyler Gaffalione, aboard War of Will for the easy half-mile in 49.33 seconds, said the move was his best yet.
“He went great. It was honestly one of his best works to date, really,” Gaffalione said. “He seemed to love the track, handled it real well, and was full of energy. Every week he's just getting stronger and stronger. We're really looking forward to his next race. It's going to be a competitive field, but the way he's been training and how he looks, his whole demeanor, we've got a ton of confidence.”
Casse was equally pleased with War of Will's work.
“He went well, you couldn't ask him to do anything better. I told Tyler I didn't want him to go fast,” Casse said. “The first quarter he was a little slow, so we radioed Tyler to pick it up a bit., He gets over the Saratoga surface really well. Tyler said it reminded him of the work before the [Kentucky] Derby. He said last week was good and this week was even better.
“If you want to see poetry in motion for a horse, and what you would like to see out of a racehorse – he's what it is. He's the entire package,” Casse added.
Before graduating with a five-length win in his main track debut at Churchill Downs fifth out, War of Will raced four times on turf, including a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Summer at Woodbine last September. Following his maiden win, he scored victories in the Grade 3 LeComte and Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds on the Derby trail. After a disappointing eighth in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, he finished a troubled eighth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby but was elevated to seventh following the disqualification of Maximum Security.
Casse said that War of Will has displayed noticeable physical development throughout the year.
“I think he's a bigger, stronger horse. He's definitely carrying more weight now than he was for the Derby, Preakness or Belmont so he's probably at his highest weight level,” Casse said. “I thought he put on a few pounds going into the Louisiana Derby and we tightened him up for the [Kentucky] Derby. His color is real good right now. He has a nice shine to his coat and he's a happy horse.”
The Jim Dandy will be War of Will's first start since the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, where he finished ninth, 7 ¼ lengths to winner and stablemate Sir Winston.
Also on the Friday morning work tab at Saratoga was Ashbrook Farms and BBN Racing's Concrete Rose, who logged her first work since winning the first leg of Turf Triple series for fillies, the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 6. The four-time graded stakes winning Twirling Candy dark bay went a half-mile in 53.20 seconds over the Oklahoma turf course for trainer Rusty Arnold and remains on target for the $750,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational, second leg of the Turf Tiara on August 2
Centennial Farms' Preservationist went three furlongs in 36.86 seconds for trainer Jimmy Jerkens for his first breeze since winning the Grade 2 Suburban. St Elias Stable and Repole Stable's Vino Rosso went five furlongs in 1:01.14 over the Oklahoma training track. Trainer Todd Pletcher is targeting the Grade 1 Whitney for the chestnut Curlin colt, who won the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita last out.
A week into his first full-time foray at Saratoga, widely regarded as the most competitive race meet in the country for horses and jockeys alike, Tyler Gaffalione is feeling right at home.
The Eclipse Award-winning apprentice for 2015 was born and raised in Davie, Florida and rose to prominence at nearby Gulfstream Park. His star has continued its ascent, reaching new heights with his first American Classic victory aboard Gary Barber's War of Will in the Grade 1 Preakness May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.
Gaffalione, 24, will climb back on Mark Casse-trained War of Will for the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets July 27 – their eighth straight race together dating back to a five-length maiden triumph last November at Churchill Downs.
“He's always been special. Even before the Preakness, I fell in love with him the first time I got on him,” Gaffalione said. “I go and see him on the dark days and, even this morning when I got done, I stopped by to see him. He's just a very special horse to me and I can't thank Gary and Mark enough just to give me the opportunity to work with him. I'm very blessed.”
Entering Friday's card, Gaffalione had two wins from 21 starters this summer at Saratoga, which opened its 40-day stand July 11. He was first with Conquest Hardcandy July 12 and maiden Call Me Harry July 14 for trainers James Ryerson and Kelsey Danner, respectively.
Though off to a slow start by his standards, Gaffalione said it was similar to when he first ventured to Kentucky full-time and wound up leading the rider standings at both Churchill Downs and Keeneland last fall.
“Just breaking into a new circuit, kind of like when we made the move to Kentucky it was a little slow at first but we're just going to keep continuing to work hard and hopefully catch a couple breaks in the afternoon and try and win as many races as possible but have a good attitude about it,” Gaffalione said. “It's exciting. It's the place to be and very competitive, so I'm just enjoying everything about it.
“It's going great,” he added. “I've really enjoyed being here. The people have been very friendly, very welcoming. Beautiful weather, great racing … I'm just looking forward to the rest of the meet.”
In Saratoga, Gaffalione is up against a riding colony similar to the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park, where he ranks as one of the leading riders every winter. Represented by agent Matt Muzikar, a Saratoga native, Gaffalione plans to return to South Florida again after stops at Kentucky Downs, Churchill and Keeneland.
“I'd just like to make a good impression on everyone here,” Gaffalione said. “By the end of the meet, I'd just like to look back and have it be a positive memory. Hopefully we can build on it and keep moving forward.”
On Thursday evening, Gaffalione was a guest of the At The Post Live-Serling on Saratoga radio show hosted by Andy Serling. The episode, which also includes Maggie Wolfendale and Kiaran McLaughlin, is available for download on Across the Board with Andy Serling podcast.
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