Casse: War Of Will ‘Especially Loves’ Churchill Downs

by | 04.27.2019 | 3:14pm
War of Will puts in his last work before the Kentucky Derby

Whenever trainer Mark Casse wanted to impress the visitors who would come by his barn during the Saratoga meet last summer, he would pull out a certain bay son of War Front that he had pinned a whole heaping portion of expectations on.

With his Adonis-like looks, War of Will always has been one to fill the eye with admirable qualities. He has backed that up with talent that has earned him a spot in the starting gate for the first leg of the Triple Crown and in his final major piece of work in advance of the May 4 Kentucky Derby, Casse once again got to watch his charge show off for onlookers.

Though he technically worked in company with older stablemate Starinthemaking, Gary Barber's War of Will was basically a one-man show as he posted a four-furlong breeze in :47.60 on a picture-perfect morning beneath the Twin Spires. With jockey Tyler Gaffalione playing passenger in the irons, the Lecomte (GIII) and Risen Star Stakes (GII) winner registered splits of :12, :24 and :36.20 and easily left his workmate in the dust by the time he galloped out five furlongs in 1:00 and six furlongs in 1:13.60.

“What you got to see this morning, if you weren't impressed with him this morning, I don't know what we're supposed to do,” Casse said. “But I've been seeing this for a long time. I had him up in Saratoga last summer and anybody that came by I took him out and showed him. And I remember talking to Jim Lawson, who is the (CEO) of Woodbine, and telling him 'I'm sending up a very, very special horse' – and he reminded me of that recently.

“The (workmate) was only there for about an eighth of a mile. I don't know how you could ask for a horse to work any better than he just did.”

Given that his bloodlines screamed turf potential, War of Will began his career going winless in four tries on the lawn but performing admirably enough to earn a start in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) last November in which he finished fifth. Since switching to the dirt, however, the sophomore colt has won three of his last four starts with his only blemish coming when he finished ninth in the Louisiana Derby (GII) after losing his hind end action briefly at the start.

He first flaunted his main-track aptitude at Churchill Downs when he broke his maiden by five lengths going 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 24. Gaffalione piloted War of Will in a race for the first time that day and has continued to be impressed by the colt's progression since.

“Every track that he's run over he handles fine, but he especially loves this track,” Gaffalione said. “I don't know what it is – it might be all the people. I think he knows he's a star so he likes the attention. I've been so high on this horse since I first got on him. I worked him here before he broke his maiden. The thing about him now is he's just all together mentally.”

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