War of Will erased any concerns surrounding a fast track with a scintillating display of superiority in Saturday’s $200,000 Lecomte (G3), crushing his foes by a four-length margin in the Kentucky Derby qualifier at Fair Grounds. The three-year-old colt won with seemingly plenty in reserve and appears to have a bright future for owner Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse.
“I think he has the potential to be a real superstar,” Casse said. “I’ll give it to Gary Barber. He was like, ‘We gotta try the dirt, we gotta try the dirt.’ We’ve been thinking about the Kentucky Derby for a long time, and now we’re going to think even more.”
Tyler Gaffalione was up on the son of War Front and War of Will left the starting gate as the prohibitive 8-5 favorite among 12 rivals.
War of Will showed good class on turf despite going winless from his first four starts, recording a runner-up effort in the Summer (G1) at Woodbine and a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Connections elected to try the main track in his juvenile finale and War of Will broke his maiden by a five-length margin in the slop at Churchill Downs on November 24.
He passed his first test on a fast track with flying colors, breaking alertly and settling into a stalking trip in third as the field made its way down the backstretch in the Lecomte. Malpais showed speed from his inside post and Manny Wah advanced from the outside to contest the pace on the outside, with the duo establishing splits in :24.33 and :49.22 on the front end.
War of Will advanced three wide on the far turn and took a short lead before the conclusion of the bend while still under a hold. Manny Wah tried to battle back along the inside entering the stretch, but War of Will was clearly going best and opened a clear lead by midstretch. He continued to draw away in the latter stages, completing a mile and 70 yards in 1:43.44.
“When I unleashed him, he really turned it on,” Gaffalione said. “He’s such a nice horse.”
War of Will earned 10 points toward a Kentucky Derby berth taking the Road to the Kentucky Derby series race.
It was no surprise to see War of Will racing on turf last year considering his pedigree. Bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings Limited, War of Will hails from French stakes-winning mare Visions of Clarity, a daughter of famed European sire Sadler’s Wells. He counts Grade 1 turf winner Pathfork as a half-brother and this is the immediate female family of 1997 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Spinning World, a champion in France and Ireland.
War of Will sold for nearly $300,000 last year at the Arqana May two-year-old sale in France.
Hog Creek Hustle, who left the starting gate at 13-1 following a third in the December 22 Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds, rallied from off the pace to be a clear second, two lengths better than 9-1 Manny Wah, who saved third by a half-length over 52-1 outsider Wicked Indeed. It was another head back to Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) runner-up Plus Que Parfait, the 4-1 second choice.
Chase the Ghost, Roiland, Night Ops, Tackett, Tight Ten, Malpais and Mo Speed completed the order of finish.