A Horse to Make You Say “WoW!”
Meet 2019 Kentucky Derby Contender War of Will
By Augusta Hosmer
We can’t tell you just how many variations of the name “Will” we heard Kentucky Derby contender War of Will being called at the Mark Casse barn at Keeneland, but “William” was a definite favorite. After his strong work on the training track on a chilly morning at Keeneland, he was walked around the shedrow to cool out. The stereotypical image of a Thoroughbred racehorse is fiery, sidestepping alongside his handler and lathered up with sweat, but War of Will strode calmly through this barn so like a businessman, he all but needed a pocket watch and a briefcase with “WoW” embossed on the side.
War of Will looks to be a laid-back, professional sort of horse who knows his job and does it well, and Casse says he has “the utmost respect” for him. After seeing him striding through the barn in trademark Casse red, past stablemates Flameaway and Chocolate Kisses, looking warm and relaxed after a workout and just taking in Keeneland with an intelligent eye, it became obvious and Justin Casse called it perfectly — he is a “really good-looking horse.”
Nearly a year ago at the May Arqana Breeze Up Sale in Deauville, France, a bay 2-year old caught the eye of bloodstock agent Justin Casse. Thirty minutes before the colt was supposed to be sold, Casse called owner Gary Barber to tell him about his find, and what a decision that turned out to be. To the delight of the Casse brothers, Barber came away with the talented horse, who would soon become a top Kentucky Derby (GI) contender, for nearly $300,000. It was also Barber’s idea to try him out on the dirt, and boy are we all glad Casse agreed.
It’s a bit of a surprising story, considering the colt is a son of War Front and the stakes-winning Sadler’s Wells mare Visions of Clarity — a pedigree screaming that he’s a turf horse — but after four reasonably strong starts on the grass, including a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI), War of Will actually broke his maiden on the dirt of Churchill Downs with a head-turning five length victory at 1 1/16 miles in late November. If there was ever any doubt he had talent on the dirt after that score, those doubts were shattered with his dominating wins in the Lecomte Stakes (GIII) and the Risen Star Stakes (GII) with four- and two-length victories, respectively. The colt’s only loss on the dirt came at Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby (GII), in which he placed ninth behind the winner, By My Standards, as well as Spinoff and Sueno, all of whose connection are hopeful to make the Derby gate.
However, everything wasn’t as it seemed with that loss, as War of Will’s connections confirmed he suffered a bad misstep at the start of the race that caused him to be “significantly off,” which led them to believe he had strained a muscle and negatively affected his performance in the race.
Initially, everyone was concerned about the colt’s path to Churchill Downs or if he’d even make the Derby starting gate at all. Now, however, he is “doing so much better” according to his connections, and they’re all excited for War of Will’s chances in the Derby. Casse thinks he could be the one to beat this time and watching this colt’s stunning gallops in the foggy mornings at Keeneland recently, it’s hard not to get excited for him too.
So what do you think about War of Will? Is this your Derby horse? Better yet, is he our 2019 Derby winner? Will he leave the crowds at Churchill Downs saying “WoW” like he did the first time he ran on the dirt there and finally give his connections the Derby victory they’ve been seeking? This could be the year, we only have 12 more days to wait to find out.