Savvy racing fans may have noticed a strange “hitch” in War of Will's stride after his triumphant Preakness Stakes victory on Saturday, and several took to social media to express their concern about the colt's well-being.
There's no need to worry about the 3-year-old son of War Front, trainer Mark Casse confirmed to the media on Sunday morning.
War of Will has a mild form of the neurological condition called “stringhalt.” Most commonly seen in one or both hind legs, stringhalt is characterized by a sharp upward motion of the leg and a pause before continuing to stretch the leg forward and back toward the ground.
While the motion may seem odd, Casse said War of Will isn't particularly affected by it.
“[The stringhalt] drove us all nuts for a long time,” he explained. “After seeing it 150 times, I stopped worrying about it. After the race the outrider came up to me and said, 'Something's happened to him behind.' And I said, 'Nope, that's just him. That's what he does.'”
Casse added that the stringhalt first became noticeable after the Breeders' Cup.
“Maybe if anything it's better,” he said. “Any of them, when they're tired, it'll exaggerate it a little bit. He's not doing it hardly at all this morning.”
Research into stringhalt has generally proven inconclusive. Some cases can be caused by toxicity, but others seemingly develop overnight. Treatments are varied, but most veterinarians agree that mild cases are not a major cause for concern.
“I've trained a lot of horses that have had it,” Casse told bloodhorse.com. “A lot of harness horses have it. He has a kind of funny action behind. It can be there for a couple days, and it can go away. I thought after the race it exaggerated it a little more, but by the next morning he was fine.
“It's not something you see very often with Thoroughbreds. I don't ever dream about winning things, but I thought about, I had a feeling, if he wins one of these big races and he has cameras on him, when he comes back, they're all going to think he's got a (hurt) back leg or something.”
Your Preakness winner WAR OF WILL!! pic.twitter.com/iyMTFfKPVr
— Alicia Wincze Hughes (@AHughesNTRA) May 18, 2019
— Anne Eberhardt Keogh (@BH_AEberhardt) May 19, 2019
CORRECTION: An editing error left the opposite impression in a statement about whether or not stringhalt is a major cause of concern. It has been corrected to read: “Treatments are varied, but most veterinarians agree that mild cases are not a major cause for concern.”
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