January 27, 2023

War of Will faces outside post obstacle in Risen Star

War of Will and jockey Tyler Gaffalione win the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds on January 19, 2019 (c) Hodges Photography/Brit Benson

A month after dominating the Lecomte (G3) by four lengths, War of Will will attempt to do it again in the $400,000 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds on Saturday. The 1 1/16-mile Risen Star carries with it 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, virtually assuring him a position in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

After opening his career on turf where he placed in the Summer (G1) and earned minor checks in the Bourbon (G3) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), War of Will romped by five lengths over a sloppy main track at Churchill Downs. He then answered any questions about his fast track ability with a facile performance in the Lecomte.

As of midweek, War of Will is to start from post 13 following the reported withdrawal of Kingly.

“It’s pretty well the same bunch that he’ll be up against,” trainer Mark Casse said. “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.”

Returning foes from the Lecomte include Hog Creek Hustle and Manny Wah, who finished second and third, respectively, plus fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-place finishers Plus Que Parfait, Chase the Ghost, and Roiland.

Among the new faces are Limonite, a rallying third behind Signalman and Plus Que Parfait when third in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in November. Mr. Money, who was scratched from the Lecomte, will make his first outing since running fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) as a 41-1 longshot. Henley’s Joy, a multiple stakes winner on turf, tries dirt for the first time Saturday, while Dunph returns from a two-month break after placing third in the Springboard Mile at Remington.

Owendale, Frolic More, and Gun It, the top three finishers from a January 17 allowance at Fair Grounds, figure to attract support in light of War of Will’s perceived dominance over his returning Lecomte rivals. Also stepping up in class is Country House, a close second to Tampa Bay Derby (G2) runner-up Kentucky Wildcat two back and a 3 1/2-length maiden winner at Gulfstream last time for Bill Mott, which also occurred January 17.

Named for the dual classic winner and champion three-year-old of 1988, the Risen Star has been notably won by 1975 Preakness (G1) winner Master Derby (when it was called the Louisiana Derby Trial), future champion older horse Lawyer Ron (2006), and future Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winners Mucho Macho Man (2011) and Gun Runner (2016), the latter a Horse of the Year.

The Risen Star caps a stakes-laden, 12-race program. It’s the first prep in the 2019 Road to the Kentucky Derby series offering qualifying points of 50-20-10-4 to the top four finishers. It can be watched and wagered on at TwinSpires.com.