At this point, trainer Mark Casse knows what to expect when War of Will steps foot onto the racetrack. On Saturday morning the Grade III Lecomte Stakes winner solidified Casse's belief that he deserves be considered a major contender on the Road To The Kentucky Derby.
The 3-year-old son of War Front hit the Fair Grounds oval at 5:30 a.m. and went a swift half-mile in 47.20 in preparation for the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes next Saturday. The move was the second fastest of 136 recorded works at the distance.
War of Will earned 10 points on Churchill Downs' Road to the Kentucky Derby when taking the Lecomte Stakes. He could earn 50 more with a victory in the Risen Star Stakes, where he drew post 14 as the 5-1 morning line favorite.
“I don't think that he could have worked any better (on Saturday) so that was good,” Casse said. “It's pretty well the same bunch that he'll be up against. Obviously the post is outside but we'd rather be out there than inside. He's got enough speed so he'll get over and if he's as good as we think he is it shouldn't matter.”
Owned by Gary Barber, War of Will is an unbeaten two-for-two over the main track. He won his main track debut over the Churchill Downs dirt by five lengths in hand-ride fashion before his Lecomte Stakes triumph. His prior four starts took place over grass and included a second-place finish in the Grade I Summer Stakes at Woodbine in September of last year.
Purchased by Casse's brother Justin from the Arqana Two-Year-Olds In Training Breeze Up Sale in France last May for $298,550, War of Will is out of the Sadler's Wells broodmare Visions of Clarity (Ire.) who is a half-sister to 1997 Grade I Breeders' Cup Mile winner Spinning World. Visions of Clarity also produced Pathfork – the winner of the Group 1 Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at The Curragh in 2010. Other members of his family include Grade I turf winners Good Journey and Denon as well as Aldebaran, a three-time Grade I winner on dirt.
Casse also sent out Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap winner First Premio for a half-mile work in preparation for the Grade III $150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap. Owned by Team Valor, the 5-year-old son of Pure Prize completed his work in :49.00.
He will break from post six for the Fair Grounds Handicap under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr.
“He went nice this morning,” Casse said. “First Premio gave us such a big effort in his last start. Hopefully he doesn't regress from that. That would be my biggest concern there. I think if things were to go well with him and we could get him into a nice race pattern and keep him healthy he could be one of the better turf horses around this year.'
First Premio won the Colonel E. R. Bradley off of a seven-month layoff. His prior start was a fifth-place finish in the Grade II King Edward Stakes at Woodbine last June.
Speaking of layoffs, Casse will race Flameaway after a six-month hiatus in the Grade III $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap. The 4-year-old son of Scat Daddy has not raced since a seventh-place effort in the Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing last August.
“It's not an easy race,” Casse said. “It's tough when you have a horse of his caliber and you have to run against the big bunch. Not only is he coming off a layoff but he's got to run against older guys. He's doing well and he should run well.”
Owned by John Oxley, Flameaway worked a half-mile in :49.00 on Saturday morning. A stakes winner on both dirt and turf, Flameaway's last win came when taking the Grade II Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last year. Other stakes wins on his resume include turf triumphs in Saratoga's Skidmore Stakes and the Kitten's Joy Stakes at Keeneland.
“Mr. Oxley and I spoke and we want to give him another try on dirt,” Casse said. “Depending on his effort next weekend, we could always go back to the grass.”
Flameaway will break from post nine with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons.
Bred in Ontario by Phoenix Rising Farm, Flameaway is out of the Fusaichi Pegasus broodmare Vulcan Rose who is a half to Grade II turf winner Essential Edge. His third dam is Fame of Tara (Ire.) – a Group 2 winner in England and Ireland who produced multiple Group 1 winner Salsabil (Ire.). Flameway was purchased for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale in 2016, where he was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency.
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